Luis Rubio

Ideological coherence or political pragmatism: the eternal dilemma of alliances. These last as long as their members continue to find greater benefits in participating and remaining in them than in denouncing them and breaking away. From Marxist theoreticians to the most seasoned political operators, alliances are the heart of politics. In the Netherlands there has not been a single majority government in seventy years: coalitions are a permanent factor and key element in their politicians’ civility because no one knows with whom they will associate in the future. As this year makes its debut, the alliance forged for the 2021 mid-term election will be put to the test for the grand event of 2024.

Motivations to form alliances are many and very diverse, but the principal one is always need. A political party that has an extensive majority lacks the incentive to ally itself with another; when it needs partners to achieve power, it seeks potential allies with whom to affiliate. This is customary in parliamentary systems, has been an unabridged vicissitude in Mexico, but does not for this reason discard involving an impeccable logic.

Political parties are cast with an ideological content, but their central function is that of procuring political power, engendering their flexibility at the time of setting up legislative or electoral coalitions or alliances. A party can be pristine in its objectives and fastidious in its manner of proceeding, but if it is not in power, its circumstance impedes it from being anything more than a witness to the nation’s happenings. An alliance among forces as diverse as the PAN, PRI and PRD (and, potentially, Movimiento Ciudadano [MC]) leads many to break out in hives (beginning with this latter), but it is the rational response to the quest for power.

Without doubt, an alliance entails costs owing to that on allying itself a political party it surrenders freedoms, starting with that of nominating its own candidates. When it concerns, as it did last year, an alliance for legislative power, the sacrifices are relatively minor, in that there are many seats to fill; however, this year six governorships will come into play in which there can be only one candidate from the alliance per state, which in turn will produce at least three potential losers per entity. The following year there will be two more and in 2024, the mother of all battles.

Each party that incorporates itself into an alliance does so because it sees in it a better way to advance its own interests. However much each of these political institutes perceives itself as pure and chaste, all exhibit deficiencies, corruptions and an abysmal record in terms of democratic procedures at their core. Haley Barbour, a U.S. politician, said that “in politics, purity is the enemy of victory.” Whoever allies themself with other parties does so because they entertain the objective of transcending their own individual capacities.

With a powerful president who still retains a relatively high level of popularity, an alliance is the sole mechanism offering an opportunity to the political parties that are found today among the opposition. And each of those parties encounters distinct challenges on looking at itself in the mirror. For the PAN, the party that has always assumed itself to be an unsullied entity that contrasted with the corruption of the PRI, now must recognize that its time in power was not too distinct from that of its historical nemesis. For the PRI the problem is one of survival: be extinguished if it allows itself to be absorbed by Morena or renovate itself and find a new platform and political support base. Regarding the PRD, the smallest of the alliance’s political parties, its challenge is to not disappear despite the caliber of its adherents. MC did not wish to join the alliance for the mid-term election because it did not want to “contaminate” itself with the costs of the “Pact for Mexico,” which ravaged the other three.

Undeniably, the risk of contagion is high, but so is the pigheadedness. As the authors of Éloge de la trahisonwrite, this is a fragile equilibrium in that the objective is not merely to stay in power. If the objective of the political parties is power, the question is how to structure an alliance that possesses the greatest probability of this being attained. María Matilde Oilier, the Argentinean scholar, states this in candid fashion: those who wanted to respect the norms never attained the ability to govern and those who achieved governance never respected the norms.

The reality is that for a long time Mexico has needed a political transformation because the entire political apparatus and the system of government has stagnated, as evidenced by crisis-ridden pathways of economic growth, insecurity, corruption and poverty. The way that López Obrador governs forced the opposition to unite to have the opportunity to access power. The 2021 Alliance showed that it can indeed function, but the true test does not lie in the pragmatism of joining together for an election, but in agreeing on a strategy of political transformation. Without a rationale for allying themselves that transcends the fact of a short-term electoral triumph, alliance members would experience what their constituents suffered, respectively, in 2000, 2006 and 2012: failure and the ensuing twilight.

In politics, wrote Camus, it is the means that justify the end. The alliance is a means, but its relevance and capacity of convincing the electorate depends on the quality of the project brandished by the alliance andits members.