Analysis Mexico's Presidential Elections: A Return to Authoritarian Populism


Mario Fernández Márquez is a laawyer and international political analyst

Mexico will hold presidential elections on Sunday, July 1st, 2018. The results are expected to be favorable to populist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, named by Enrique Krauze as the "tropical messiah", representative of the electoral coalition of the National Regeneration Movement (Partido de Regeneración Nacional also known as MORENA, left) with the Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social or PES, extreme right) and the Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo or PT, extreme left).

The other three presidential candidates are: Ricardo Anaya Cortés, representative of the electoral coalition formed by the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional or PAN, center right) with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática or PRD, center left) and Citizen's Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano or MC, center left); José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, representative of the electoral coalition formed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI, center) with New Alliance (Nueva Alianza or NA, center) and the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (Partido Verde Ecologista de MéxicoPVEM, right), and finally, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, as an independent candidate, without the endorsement of any political party.

The latest electoral polls collected by the main survey aggregators show the following numbers: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (45-52%), Ricardo Anaya Cortés (23-29%), José Antonio Meade Kuribreña (18-24%) and Jaime Rodríguez Calderón (4-6%).[1] It has been an election marked by aggressive confrontation among the different presidential candidates, including the suspicions founded by the purchase of polls to turn the electoral tendencies in favor of a certain candidate, as well as by the continuous denunciations of corruption and money laundering that the presidential candidates have thrown at each other.[2]

With a populist vision of politics, López Obrador's failed proposals are a return to economic protectionism, to state interventionism and to the social authoritarianism that represented for Mexico a clear economic failure and a regression towards its opening to modernity, during the presidential terms of presidents Luis Echeverría Álvarez and José López Portillo, during twelve years in the seventies of the 20th century (1970-1982). As López Obrador himself has pointed out, MORENA, his new political party that emerged in 2012, intends to establish a "Fourth Transformation" in Mexico, the previous three being historical episodes that marked national life in Mexico such as the War of Independence, the Liberal Reform and the Mexican Revolution, very much in the style of the Chavista narrative of the Movement of the Fifth Republic in Venezuela.

In another sense, as others have argued, this transformation also obeys a nationalist root, it is, neither more nor less, the historical restoration of the ancient authoritarian and corporatist regime of the old stage (1928-1982) of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI), the political party that governed Mexico for seven continuous decades.

Even many old-school nationalist politicians and PRI social democrats now openly support and are part of López Obrador's project, including Manuel Bartlett Díaz, the architect of an electoral fraud committed in the 1988 presidential election against the then-left candidate.

Added to the above, the ideological mix of the members of his political formation is extremely outlandish, bringing him closer to a "catch all party" in its typical Anglo-Saxon sense.

This mixture was achieved by Lopez Obrador offering candidacies to relevant personalities of the three main political parties of the country, PRI, PAN and PRD, in exchange for support to his presidential candidacy, including the appointment of Alfonso Romo Garza as Chief of his next Cabinet, a businessman without party affiliation, but with great economic weight in the north of the country, beneficiary of various financial sales of large companies that have been denounced before the courts of Mexico and the United States for alleged fraud.[3]

The members of the party are now members of the extreme right, characterized by their religious confessionalism (cases such as the Social Encounter Party (PES), facade of the evangelical movement in Mexico), drug traffickers, trade unionists, accused kidnappers (for example, the leader of the self-defense groups in Michoacán, José Manuel Mireles, or the leader of the mining union, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, exiled in Canada) and former guerrilla members and terrorists of the extreme left (members of the extinct Mexican Communist Party and of the student workers' movements of 1968).

Likewise, López Obrador's campaign has received strong support from Russia, Venezuela and Spain. In the case of Spain, support is provided by Podemos through the sponsorship of electoral advisors, including a person named Katu Arkonada, a member of Batasuna who acted in Latin America under the orders of the terrorist organization ETA, advisor to the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and who is proudly called "chavista”.

In the case of Venezuela, support for López Obrador comes from the direct links of MORENA members with the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, and the incorporation of this political party as a full member of the Sao Paulo Forum, of whose support MORENA's main politicians are proud.

In a recent television series on "Populism in Latin America," López Obrador was described as the "furious redeemer". In fact, López Obrador has taken advantage of the social weariness provoked by the presidential administrations of the traditional parties, the PAN and the PRI in order to profit politically to capitalize in his favor the anti-system vote, proposing populist responses to corruption and insecurity, such as a generalized amnesty for drug traffickers and delinquents, as well as the cancellation of the construction of the New Mexico City Airport.

In any case, López Obrador's possible victory, in addition to the causes already explained, will be due to the failure of a de facto alliance between Ricardo Anaya Cortés and José Antonio Meade Kuribreña in order to stop the advance of the populist wave. Also, due to the failed alliance between the PAN and the PRD, which was a good idea badly executed mainly due to the electoral weakness of the PRD throughout the country, which proposed representing a third way out against the government candidate, Meade Kuribreña, and the radical candidate, López Obrador.

It will also undoubtedly count on the natural wear and tear of the current presidential administration, headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto, and their respective corruption scandals, which concludes with a lousy approval rate of 21%, the lowest for a President in Mexico in the last 30 years.[4]

Source: Oraculus, Poll of Polls, available at:

[2] The most paradigmatic cases of these denunciations have been those promoted against Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his links of illegal financing of his campaign with organized crime and his inexplicable standard of family life in spite of having income that does not justify his expenses. Also, the complaint against Ricardo Anaya Cortés for money laundering caused by the purchase of an industrial warehouse for 50 million pesos and the complaint against José Antonio Meade Kuribreña for his participation in the Odebrecht case and his lack of action as Secretary of State in the corruption cases of the current presidential administration known as the "White House" and the "Master Fraud".

[3]  “La gran estafa de Alfonso Romo”


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