Their True Colors

Luis Rubio

The objective is clear: stay in power beyond 2024 at any price.  Showing their true colors is the latest novelty brandished by the lousy transformers of the Fourth Transformation.

The electoral legislation in force in electoral matters dates from the nineties, within the context of interminable electoral disputes that would impede governing in a multiplicity of states and municipalities. Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE, and its earlier incarnation IFE) was created to resolve, once and for all, the conflicts of that epoch. In addition, its promotors imagined that, with the electoral issue resolved, the future of the country would be exemplary. The 2006 presidential election -which AMLO lost, but never conceded- proved that hypothesis erroneous, thus constituting the remote origin of the new bill.

The new initiative proposes diminishing the cost of the electoral system, reducing the number of legislators in both chambers, eliminating the electoral institutions as they exist today and modifying the structure of representation at the state and municipal level, accompanied by a budgetary rationale. If one enters profoundly into the spirit of the initiative, it becomes plain that the objective is both budgetary and political.

Two items constitute the heart of the budgetary matter in the electoral ambit: one is the cash transfers to the political parties (part for their functioning and part for campaigning); the other lies in the structure of the electoral apparatus itself. The initiative is peculiar because government financing of the political parties was an express demand from the PRD in the 1996 negotiations with the argument that a) with this, the risk of converting the political parties into means of money-laundering would be eliminated; and, b) to ensure similar conditions of access and electoral competition. In its essence, the approach consisted of adopting the European model for electoral systems instead of the North American model, where each party seeks its own sources of financing. It was not a bad argument, but it is ironic that a government originally emanating from the PRD would be the one pressing for dismantling that structure.

Regarding the electoral apparatus, it is without doubt costly because it is a permanent structure that functions at full throttle only during campaign periods:  before, during and after every time there are elections. Most nations do not maintain an electoral bureaucracy in permanent fashion, but its existence stems from the conflicts that led to the creation of the original IFE: the mistrust was such that the parties agreed to a costly structure, but a trustworthy one, to guarantee that the popular mandate would be complied with religiously.

It is obvious that many of these expenditures can be reduced but, prior to this, one must ask whether: a) There is a guarantee that the sources of conflict and misgivings will not return under a new scheme, in that it is the political party in the government that always calls the results into question? and b) Where would the funds saved be directed?

On the political side, the reform proposes drastically reducing the number of legislators with the logic of lowering their cost. Significant in the government’s modus operandi is that there is not a sole consideration in the initiative’s text that displays concern in terms of the representation of the population in Congress, the capacity of the legislators to comply with their responsibility or the effect of a lesser number of legislators on the system of separation of powers. That is, to hell with the counterweights.

There is no discussion on these rubrics for one and only one reason: the President does not conceive of the legislative branch as a component of a system of checks and balances, but rather as an instrument for ratifying the presidential decisions. As in the old PRI era, the president has no desire to entertain discussion nor arguments, nor does he wish his initiatives to be changed even one iota, but that they be voted on just as he dispatches them.

In a word, this is about recreating the old monopolistic political system of back in the day that responded to only one person and where the citizenry did not exist nor have presence or rights. It is about centralizing the power, eliminating counterweights and guaranteeing the current governing clique being in power in perpetuity.

The pertinent question would be on the consequences of implementing a system such as that proposed by the President. Time will tell, but it is necessary to speculate on the implications: above all, the initiative supposes that the citizenry is an amorphous accumulation of zombies who align themselves and respond to the presidential will without a peep. Second, the objective is to curtail or eliminate the opposing political parties  (which would include, presumably, the satellites of Morena such as the Verde and the PT, because they would no longer be useful); and, finally, in third place, the enormous savings that the diminution of institutions, entities, legislators and stooges would represent would be funneled directly into transfers to the president’s clienteles, in other words, rendering the population more dependent on the President by the day.

The plan is Machiavellian for the individual in power. For the citizenry, the message was articulated by Stalin several decades ago: “I consider it completely unimportant who will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.”