Next Sunday will be a key day for the future of Mexico. It is the day on which the electorate will decide whether it will vote for the existence of counterweights to power or whether it will ratify the course that, step by step, the president has been leading Mexico toward the total concentration of power on a sole person who, in a single instant, could convert it into tyranny. For Karl Popper, one of the great philosophers of the XX century, what is essential for democracy is that the government not abuse the citizenry, thus the existence of checks to power. The nodal question for the voters is whether it will be possible to render this minimal definition of democracy effective.
What is at play next Sunday has nothing to do with President López Obrador, his attributes or style of government. The essential principle of democracy rests on the existence of checks on power son that nobody could abuse, regardless of his or her values or objectives. The issue has everything to do with the type of country that Mexicans want to experience and with the sources of certainty that are necessary for guaranteeing political stability and economic viability. The decision-making manner of the president, his constant warning to his party’s benchwarmers regarding not “changing even a comma” of his legislative bills, and his threatening discourse against the Supreme Court justices depict a leader who wants all the power for himself without relinquishing any space to the cardinal function corresponding to each of those branches of government, as counterweights and as protectors of last resort of the essential rights of the citizenry.
Voting for the Morena party or its acolytes implies advancing toward the risk of tyranny. Neither more nor less. On ratifying the Morena majority, the world changes because nothing that existed prior to that will continue to be valid. Throughout the last two and a half years, Mexicans have been observing that, one step at a time, liberties have come to be restricted or jeopardized, the arbitrariness of the government’s acts increases, legislation is modified without the slightest attempt to court the opposition toward arriving at a consensus, or widespread support for the presidential initiatives and decisions are made that directly affect the creation of new enterprises, sources of employment or opportunities for the country’s development. In a word, the country has been losing the few sources of certainty that there were, as keenly reflected in the meager performance of the economy across the board and in the current unemployment levels.
The president has done everything possible to convert this election into a referendum of himself. He does this because he wants to exploit his personal popularity as a calling card so that voters arrive at a decision at the ballot box, with no meditation whatsoever, in favor of the candidates of the party that does not “change even a comma” of the presidential initiatives. Each citizen should ask themselves where the logic is in electing representatives whose sole undertaking would be to occupy their seat in the House to raise a finger when instructed by the Head-of-State. As citizens, the key lies in there being the conditions that impede excessive or absurd decisions that negatively affect the people’s and the country’s well-being and for which the only thing that works is the existence of effective counterweights. There is no other way.
His decisions, above all his way of arriving at them, explains why it is so important for counterweights to exist. Each of his initiatives and actions have acquired a personalistic logic, a desire to recover an elusive past, and an implacable fancy for nurturing his clienteles. Every time I think about his mode of acting and coming to decisions, I imagine merchants who promise miracles impossible to come true.
So suggests the following anecdote:
In his comedy “The Knights”, Aristophanes presents the Athenians as a fundamentally good but bewildered old man who was tricked by the demagogue Cleon. The wise men of the epoch opted to postulate a sausage maker (the most repugnant profession imaginable) to run against Cleon in the popular vote. The two candidates sustain a public debate, in which the sausage stuffer shows himself to be even more vulgar, swaggering, egotistical and loutish than Cleon, accusing the latter of preposterous crimes and finally winning the debate by pledging free gifts that could never be defrayed by public funds.
The central characteristic of the government has been great and fallible promises focusing on grand projects (such as the Airport, the Train, and the Refinery) and his interminable thirst for increasing transfers to his clienteles which, as Aristophanes insinuated, cannot be fulfilled. The existence of counterweights would have thwarted those excesses.
An open and democratic society endures and is nourished by the existence of diverse positions and opinions, a principle that López Obrador rejects out of hand. He fights every day against what, as Garganella says, is a fundamental factor of development: the right to protest and to find fault because this has to do with basic rights that permit maintaining the society and its qualities alive. The President has been eroding citizen rights one by one.
This election will decide whether he will continue abusing the citizens’ rights or whether he will be required to negotiate, as in any democracy, his priorities and actions with the representatives of all Mexicans, rather than merely imposing them upon those of his own affiliation.