Today’s Play

Luis Rubio

Sarajevo 1914. Gavrilo Princip shoots Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. One more assassination, except that this one would have indescribable consequences, starting with dozens of millions of deaths. An apparently insignificant event unleashes forces that after it nothing or no one could contain. Thus begin the great changes: with small things that accumulate, the old saying of the straw that broke the camel’s back. But the times are tricky, and things take place in their own times, not necessarily those of the political hourglass.

The year 2024 marks the period of constitutional transition, a process that represents two simultaneous components, albeit in opposite directions: on the one hand, those who are taking their leave; on the other, those who have not yet arrived. The former are known, while the latter have yet to be defined.   That is what elections are for, as are the mechanisms designed to reach that moment, beginning with the electoral campaigns themselves, a period during which Mexicans are thrust into at this momentous point in time.

Campaigns are about those who aspire to incorporate themselves into the government and in that period, which in Mexico is excessively defined and regulated, designed as it is for the candidates to make themselves known and for them to be presented to the electorate. Under normal circumstances, candidates would arise from their own internal processes and would dedicate themselves to conquering the votes cast by the citizenry. The theory is very clear, but on this occasion that process has been overtaken by the President’s urgency in trying to win the election months before the votes are actually cast and the manner in which party alignments have come about.

Surveys and other measures suggest that the result is already inevitable, thus the strategy of the governing party is intended to discourage the opposition vote: why waste time on campaigns and election day if the result is known beforehand, as in the good old days.  Notwithstanding this, the objective of the campaigns is precisely for the candidates to present themselves before the electorate, to be known and to make an impression on it, developing in that manner a true competition. While the Morena party candidate is widely known, the campaign embodies the opportunity for the electorate to come to know the opposition candidate. This very process is key for a credible result that would be consummated and legitimatized on election day.

The flip side of the coin, critical at this moment due to the tight linking (in truth much more that that) between the outgoing President and his candidate, is that which materializes in the ambit of those concluding their constitutional mandate this year, from the President and his family to the lowermost of his collaborators.

There is no presidential term in which the departing governmental group does not emanate excessive satisfaction for the achievements of their term of office. Each and every government of the past century concluded with the governing group sure of their accomplishments -all extraordinary and great- that explain their prestige and historical transcendence. Viewing themselves in the mirror, (nearly) all of them were certain of having done good, transforming the reality and ending up with neither outstanding nor pending debt.  All of this vindicates their sense of invulnerability, fully justified in the face of a golden future. But all, all of them, erred: some because they remained irrelevant, others because in the last analysis they caused uncommon crises or worse.   Some, few, ended up in jail. But their most important error was to believe that theirs was the party would continue forever, well beyond the day of the constitutional relinquishment of that power. In this, the Mexican political system is not only ungrateful, but also absolutely brutal: therein lies that tiny Maderista detail of no-reelection.

Engrossed in their own myths and their artificial and artifice-ridden truths, they never ponder the possible errors that they may have committed, the abuses, the victims of their excesses or the offenses that they left along the way, not to mention the atrocious acts that their initiatives could have caused. All of them know and are perhaps part of what Emilio Portes Gil denominated “the sexennial broods of millionaires.” Nothing has caused them to lose any sleep over this because it’s all about the cleanest, purest and most exceptional government in history. Like all of those preceding it… How many Sarajevos might they have left in their wake?

This concluding administration now nearing its end is somewhat out of the ordinary because its narrative is so attractive and contagious, therefore leading its members to believe and feel themselves to be part of a great transformation, of that crusade that seems unstoppable and that is driven by the enormous distance between the discourse and the reality. There is no doubt of the President’s popularity, but his support is merely castles in the sand. The only question is when those foundationless supports will collapse. This is where the times come in, which will benefit one or the other of the candidate, but that will inexorably be akin to the winner drawing the short straw.

According to Voltaire, “History never repeats itself. Man always does.” Perhaps this is why Marx thought that the second time around is no more than a farce, but Mexico has been repeating that history for a century and those taking their leave of power never learn. The history of that process appears inevitable, but it is far from having been written in textbooks. Those who leave, leave, but those who will come have yet to be determined.