Perhaps the best paradox of Mexican politics today lies in that the main promoter of the opposition is the president himself, while it applies itself to wasting every opportunity it encounters. Lost in thought and in their own labyrinths, the political parties and their pathetic leaderships appear to lack the capacity to position themselves in the moment -and in the opportunity- in which the government as well as the citizenry have placed them.
The leaders of the opposition seem to ratify the saying of the great actor John Quinton: “Politicians are people who, when they see the light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.” Those of the opposition are even more confused because they believe that they have nothing to lose, even when the president eagerly devotes himself each morning to setting out a silver platter in front of them. Much more transcendental is the pressure from the citizenry, a factor previously inexistent in Mexican politics, but today a potential opportunity.
Two months ago, this very citizenry went out to march in protest. Beyond the numbers of each march, the political fact is undeniable, so much so that the president dedicated entire weeks, before and after, to the matter of the citizenry coming out to march in defense of the National Electoral Institute (INE). There is nothing like an emboldened citizenry that finds a concrete and tangible cause to defend; much more so when the perceptions of the marchers clash in so frontal a manner with the everyday political rhetoric.
But the fact of the citizens’ march does not entail, in itself, political transcendence. Marches are citizen manifestations that make the participants bolder and pressure the authorities, but they do not translate, automatically, into votes, and even less so in such an inflexible electoral system that renders difficult (in fact, it entails a disincentive for) the birth or death of political parties. In a word, for a march to transcend it is indispensable for the existing political parties to activate and mobilize the expressions, fears, protests and aspirations of the citizenry and the civil society in general to convert them into political action and, at its time, into votes.
The march brought together a segment of the citizenry, made available a stronghold for the civil society and breached a big hole (especially in Mexico City) to the governing party and to the appearance of absolute control to which the president pretends, but it does not constitute a factor likely to gain political agency in the light of the 2024 elections. Even in the specific objective of the march -that is the INE- the citizenry was barely able of staving off Morena’s getting its way in that and in other legislative affairs.
For that it is the political parties that hold all the cards and therein lies the great incognito of the electoral politics of the moment, and that is where the opposition lies. The opposition today, with the possible exception of the Movimiento Ciudadano, lingers as no more than a memory. Of course, in all political formations there are exceptional individuals with a surplus of abilities, but the parties themselves are virtual entelechies dominated by lugubrious leaderships without any ambition other than their own, already small, when not vile.
Such an inflexible electoral system allows for the perpetuation of the parties as well as of the leaderships, which incorporates an enormous degree of uncertainty concerning the capacity of those parties and leaderships to become vehicles susceptible of channeling the preferences of the citizenry. In order to entertain the possibility of winning an election in 2024, the opposition will have to find not only an ideal candidate for that purpose, but also articulate a program that attracts the citizenry, stealing the control of the narrative from the president and creating conditions for all of the opposition parties to unite among themselves into the transformer force that the country requires, and that the citizenry demands.
The challenge is evidently huge, but there are three elements that will foreseeably assist in the process. The first is the president, whose bullheadedness will continue to alienate the citizenry, thus strengthening the opportunities of the opposition, as it did with the march. The second is that Mexico is entering the period of succession, the most complex political process in any nation, in which the vulnerabilities, contradictions and insufficiencies of the government and of the political system in general exacerbate. Along the way, all these factors are going to heighten and multiply precisely because of the nature of the president, of his party and of the level of conflict that both have imposed on the country. Finally, the third element will be the civil society’s entities, which today comprise the true source of organization, proposals, criticisms and studies that, de facto, have been putting in evidence the abuse of power.
What are lacking are opposition parties, at present lost in space and without exerting much influence but with all the elements to become the overwhelming might that the moment requires. On his deathbed, Voltaire said that “this is not the time to make new enemies.” The parties that today wander aimlessly along like the walking dead have in their hands the possibility, and the responsibility, to do the contrary.
That is, the opportunity is there. The question is whether the opposition, pathetic today, could make it theirs.