Mexico’s nine-party democratic electoral system is in a crisis. The problem is that there are too many parties sharing the votes.
Last Sunday’s election left its lessons and it’d seem nowadays that the only way to get a winning majority as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) did, is through covenants. PRI joined hands with its crony Green Party (PVEM) as well as the National Alliance Party (PAN) and even then in competing against National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the awesome threesome was only able to come up with less than 35 percent of the total vote.
The problem is not new. Since the 2006 presidential election the system has been having this same problem. Back then when former president Felipe Calderón of National Action Party (PAN) and current Morena president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) came to an even 36 percent draw, Calderón got away with victory by a 0.6 percent difference. He was a minority president.
Then in 2012 AMLO ran again this time against current President Enrique Peña Nieto and this time Peña Nieto managed to get a more or less comfy difference of six percent winning with 38 percent of the vote, against AMLO’s 32 percent. He was, and is, a minority president too.
There would be nothing wrong with being a minority president only if the winners had been able to bring to their side the majority that did not vote for them. Calderón finished his term in 2012 repudiated by the people due to his caving in to the war promoted by the U.S. government against narcotics trafficking. The final tally was that when Calderón pitched the Mexican Army against the drug traffickers, it broke down the cartels but unleashed a ruthless war that left at least 30,000 people killed by violence. Calderón couldn’t overcome his minority president status.
The same is pretty much true of Enrique Peña Nieto. Peña Nieto, who continued down the same trek as Calderón in a war against drug traffickers pretty much under pressure by the United States and nowadays the death toll of violent murders is way over the 30,000 mark scored by Calderón, and increasing the body count on a daily basis.
A great inconvenience of being a minority president came Peña Nieto’s way when he pushed his Energy Reform literally opening up the oil and electricity markets to foreign investment in the process signing the death sentence to state-owned oil company Pemex.
Peña Nieto was challenged by AMLO, who sternly opposed the Energy Reform, to subject it to a public referendum during the 2015 mid-term election of deputies and mayors but Peña Nieto absolutely refused, perhaps feeling the hunch that the 62 percent majority that did not vote for him would turn down the Energy Reform. The President had to act by imposing an Energy Reform Mexican voters did not and perhaps still don’t want.
This is why the electoral system is in a crisis. Mexicans have governments who rule for a minority and the great majority splintered in many different parties, do not have a voice representing them.
Ever since the 2006 “technical draw” of each leading candidate having almost an equal number of votes many persons have been proposing to follow the footsteps of some European and South American nations of having a runoff election.
Strangely enough, the main opponents to revamping the political system to allow an election between the two frontrunners has been blocked both by Calderón, Peña Nieto, and believe it or not, by AMLO himself.
Thus far there have been a number of electoral reform bill initiatives in Congress that have made sense and would bring to an end this senseless splintering of the vote and have minority ruling governments as it has been during the last 11 years.
There are voices again who demand that the bills to allow for a runoff election between front-runners who are tied – as it was both in the State of Mexico and Coahuila elections for governor last Sunday – so that the incoming ruling official have a meaningful majority backing him up, and allow him or her to rule with a strong backing, which is the foundation of good government.
This is not bound to happen because as it the past, opponents to runoff elections claim that there is no time to legislate for the next election.
It’s been proven, however, by Calderón and Peña Nieto that a minority president – or governor for that matter – doesn’t have much leeway of action and has to strike sometimes unholy covenants in order to pass legislation the majority does not want.
In times of crisis, change is the only solution. The time for runoff elections has come to Mexico.