The News
Friday 21 of June 2024

Revisiting the Independents

Jorge Castañeda
Jorge Castañeda
Jorge Castañeda warned there is no independent option for the 2018 elections. But is it possible to meet the objective that him and many others assign to him: destroying the party system?

Without hesitation or embellishment, Jorge Castañeda warned about there not being a unique independent option for the 2018 elections. It will be impossible to meet the objective that him and many others assign to him: destroying the party system. Former President Vicente Fox launched harsh criticism toward the independents, who he defined as being a possible risk very far from the cure.

The reality is that those players without a party are here to stay. They will be a future alternative and their electoral success will depend on the depletion of the current political regime and how it performs its role. The independents have the virtue of channeling the people’s indignation during these times through votes, but this can only be achieved if it is used as a vehicle to reject the current political arrangement based on parties. Not just any independent is successful nor will they be in every time and place. Efficiency is an unavoidable condition.

I agree with many who thing that independent candidates need to be present. There is a reason based in strict democratic justice and dogma: the right to be voted for. Jorge Castañeda was a pioneer in this and today the existence of independent candidates with basic codes for fundamental rights promoted by him, is not within the fabric of justice. I recognize his electoral success and his power to improve the representation system, however, I am much less optimistic when it comes to his democratic abilities.

The independents have already demonstrated that they can win elections, but it still remains to be seen if they can improve the quality of the government. We have to consider the major problem that has to do with representative democracy: a government without parliamentary support that seems unable to solve the problem. The lack of legislative support is a threat that could derive from the confrontation of powers and eventually turn into a government crisis. Modern democracy forcibly requires balance and counterbalance. A president or governor who is faced with legislative power creates an even more serious problem.

Many think that the independents’ record is the formula for dismantling the party system. The two-party system crisis encourages this perception and favors the construction of new party alternatives, like those that have surfaced in Spain with Podemos and Ciudadanos. In Mexico, two options have emerged: Encuentro Social and Morena. The latter is more successful because of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s influence, who has built an ample base of sympathizers, but it has the limitation of its power resting in one person, which runs the risk of it going astray with time.

López Obrador competes in the same market as the independents: an indignant electorate which represents approximately a third of the total population. This character with sharp political instinct has had the clarity to not given any credit to the independents. At least in the case of Jaime Rodríguez, his disqualification was head-on. “El Bronco” knew how to defend his project with the argument that López Obrador is equal to everyone else, “the assumption exists that society has two parties, and as a result there isn’t a genuine route for change.” Castañeda, López Obrador and “El Bronco” coincide in their wish to contend without competition in the search for the electoral market which will be fought over in 2018.

The best strategy for independent candidates is to present themselves as an option to dismantle the existing party system, a social flag nonnegotiable in the virtue of the low votes received by the three parties in the intermediate elections of 2015. It is a difficult objective but it is possible, even when the candidate has a clear political profile and a recent party membership, like Jaime Rodríguez in Nuevo León.

However, in the essence of the institution — the right to be voted for — there is not room to demand for only one independent candidate for the 2018 elections, like Jorge Castañeda suggests. In fact, one of the tasks that needs to be resolved to strengthen the institution is to reduce the disproportionate and excessive requirements to become a candidate and at the same time avoid them giving up their nationality. The idea that Castañeda really planted, without intending to, was the idea of a commander.

It is also necessary, like President Vicente Fox’s warning, to take care of the rules applicable to finances to create fairness, so that they have prerogatives and competitive campaign limits, but also give explanations about the origin and destination of campaign resources. The rules should prevent independent candidates from becoming average, so that tactics, including criminal ones, agree with political or government representation. In this sense, with all the limitations and bad experiences, the party system is a filter used to mitigate the risks of crime penetrating politics.

In fact, in the strictest sense, independent candidates do not exist. To say that they do not depend on a party but rather of society or citizenship is an abstraction, a judgment that distorts the meaning of the term and becomes blank check. Willy-nilly, parties pose projects and political programs that serve as a compass to vote, giving it meaning and purpose. In fact, if the system of government and parliamentary representation has become worn it has not been for their subordination to the party, but precisely for the opposite reason, because the government, taken to extremes by pragmatism, distorts the electoral propasition that it gave meaning to the majority vote.

This year, independent candidates will gain ground. In large part, their success will not rest in the profile or on the proposals of the candidate, but the citizens’ disgust at the worn partisan offering. It is very likely that 2018, for the first time in recent history, will have independent presidential candidacies. Meaning, without doubt, a vindication of the right to be elected but also an opportunity of a magnitude only comparable to the size of the risk.