The unification of once ideologically and politically intransigent parties is a positive sign for Mexican democracy. That’s why the current attempt by the right-wing National Action (PAN) and the socialist Democratic Revolution (PRD) parties to bring their acts into a “new” option for voters ought not to be taken lightly.
The proposal to integrate the Wide Opposition Front (Frente Amplio de Oposición –FAO – not FAD, Frente Amplio Demócrático as mistakenly translated on Monday’s column as Wide Democratic Front – oops!) is not merely an attractive, but a feasible idea.
There are many already established factors in the PAN-PRD relationship that look promising. The most obvious one is that the PAN-PRD symbiosis is not new but since the beginning of the Enrique Peña Nieto Administration (their common political enemy) the leadership of both parties began looking for common ground instead of bickering over differences. That search proved to have hit on fertile soil as in the past four years both have posted joint candidacies for governor winning on 10 different occasions.
In her call to unity with PAN on Sunday, PRD president Alejandra Barrales pointed at the movement’s common political opponents with clarity.
On one hand, and indeed the PRD’s worst enemy nowadays, is the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
On the other is President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which in the last June 7 elections used all the tricks allowed by the National Electoral Institute (INE) to win by narrow margins the elections for governor in the states of Coahuila and Mexico. Those tricks included allowing the President to appoint 15 cabinet members to oversee districts in those elections to make sure that the funds were not stolen along the way and reached intended targets. It might sound illegal but INE determined it was not. Still, PRI lost the state of Nayarit by landslide to PAN.
In opposing PRI, the PAN-PRD partnership is in a bit of confusion as both parties backed the Pact for Mexico in 2012 that brought about the passage in Congress of the President’s very controversial Energy Reform. Both backed the neoliberal style of open economy Mexico has nowadays.
This alone led to a nearly catastrophic division at PRD in which AMLO moved on to form Morena taking with him more than a sizeable part of PRD. In fact, by now going against Morena PRD faces further splintering as there are “tribes” inside the party that will still move to Morena as they feel that current leadership has moved too far to the right. A threat for PRD here is that if it definitely forms the FAO with PAN, it will lose to Morena another sizeable chunk of meaningful registered membership.
Against PRI, both parties have a long history of opposition to it. PAN, to begin with, was formed back in 1939 out of the shambles of the last Catholic attempt to control the Mexican government during the 1926-1929 “War for Christ” (Guerra Cristera) but became the first bona fide opposition party against the then Mexican Revolution Party controlled by the government, and which was to govern for 70 straight years.
PRD found its roots after losing (being swindled by PRI, they claimed) the 1988 presidential elections as a coalition of all left wing forces and turned into a socialist option in 1990. Their power house was and is in Mexico City, but PRD gained ground and has governed Mexico City for the past 20 years where it boasted till recently a powerful backing, so powerful that current Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, and independent, ran for PRD in 2012 and won with a whopping 67 percent majority of the vote.
It is unquestionable that the Morena splinter has brought PRD down in voting power but part of it is still standing and it is this part the one that wants to join with PAN.
For many of us who have followed the paths of political organizations and into the multi-party electoral system the nation enjoys today (even with huge flaws) at first sight the Wide Opposition Front is an unachievable ideological hybrid.
But it is in the end the political will of those who are pursuing this unity which will finally make this unlikely wedding a reality creating indeed the nation’s first political party hybrid bringing former opponents together to work for a common goal in 2018 which will be launching a joint candidate that might just win a slight majority over PRI and Morena, who will surely divide the vote come elections.
This hybrid is not yet a done deal because beyond idealism comes the ambition of personalities in both sides and particularly bringing together the interests of would be candidates, which will prove even more difficult that bringing conservatives and socialist together.