“Today the main enemy of democracy is the government itself, which should guarantee it.”
The incipient Mexican democracy has its institutional nucleus in the National Electoral Institute (INE). The construction of an electoral body independent of the Government was the central element of the political pact that ended the political monopoly of the PRI and guaranteed that the votes would determine the distribution of power. Today that institutional development, key in the construction of a pluralistic social order, runs the risk of being devastated by an authoritarian coup justified in an alleged majority support.
Never like now has the main advance in the transformation of the Mexican State into a space of coalitions been at risk, with an exercise of power limited temporarily, where no group completely controls the decision-making spaces and where all actors have incentives to return to play by the same rules, without the temptations to resort to violence or to kick the table and throw things away.
Throughout Mexico’s constitutional history, the lack of electoral legitimacy was the central source of the political conflict. Since Vicente Guerrero ignored the electoral result in 1828 and decided to resolve the dispute with the mobilization of his host to force Congress to appoint him President despite the fact that he had lost in electoral votes, the elections in Mexico were a battlefield not for the votes but for the control of the organization of the elections. When finally the liberal and republican coalition seized territorial control, once the imperial attempt of the conservatives was defeated, the triumphant hero, Benito Juárez, used his political ancestry to guarantee elections in a way. Since then, Electoral fraud was an informal institutional mechanism to guarantee legislative majorities and docile governors who did not obstruct the autocratic power of the civil leader. Soon, electoral control mechanisms would be the key to the accepted fiction that legitimized the dictatorship of the military leader Porfirio Díaz.
Emilio Rabasa, a stark critic of the failure of the 1857 Constitution, justified the institutionalization of electoral fraud with the argument of the impossibility of free and competitive elections given the sociological conditions of a country in which the real universal vote appeared as impossible: ” If two or more free parties dispute the victory, they would not fight to obtain the votes of the citizens but to impose the agents for fraud, and the party that committed the greatest number of attacks against the laws would achieve victory ”. Hence, centralized control of electoral fraud, the fraud organized by the Government itself, was preferable, with which “the true citizens have understood their irremediable inferiority as a small minority and have abandoned their useless right.” (Rabasa, 1912.The Constitution and the dictatorship ).
The 1917 Constitution also failed from the first time the presidential succession had to be resolved according to its rules. After the founding coup of the Sonorans with the Agua Prieta Plan, the elections of the following decade were essentially the scene of disputes over imposing fraud agents, and electoral victories reflected the ability of client networks to cheat more than their own. opponents. The 1929 pact, from which the PNR was born, the first form of the single party, meant the reestablishment of centralized control of electoral processes. From then on, as in the Porfiriato, the political contest centered on the decision of the official candidacies, not on the competition for votes.
After the electoral crisis of 1940, resolved with a great manipulation of the results, to the extent of minimizing the vote of the opposition coalition, the electoral legislation of 1946 was designed to formalize the government’s control of the electoral results. The creation of what in its mature form would be called the Federal Electoral Commission as a dependency of the Ministry of the Interior would make the organ in charge of the elections a judge and interested party of the competition and completely annulled any possibility of defeat of the official candidacies. That abusive system reached its limit with the 1988 elections.
The political crisis unleashed by the manipulation of the result of that election, operated by Manuel Bartlett, today a conspicuous figure in the President’s coalition, triggered a process of a new agreement, materialized in a series of successive pacts, first limited to the PRI and the PAN and later expanded to the PRD, a party of which López Obrador was a central figure. In 1996, the constitutional autonomy of the electoral body was established and the rules were established that, finally, allowed the existence of free and transparent elections, with guarantees so that no actor could control them in a factious manner. Since then, López Obrador has been the only relevant contender who has ignored electoral arbitration.
The current President of the Republic started his opposition career under the mantle of resistance against electoral fraud in the Tabasco aftermath of the 1988 election, but today he shows that his democratic commitment has been nothing more than a facade. In 2006, against all demonstrable evidence, he claimed fraud and launched it against the then Federal Electoral Institute. As Guerrero in 1828, he tried to reverse the legal result by force. He failed but achieved relevant reforms that would imply his future acquiescence to the decisions of the electoral authority. However, even when he succeeded with the same set of rules, he attributed it to the fact that he had managed to stop the fraud with a massive vote, not to the fairness of the arbitration.
López Obrador has shown that he is not a Democrat. He does not understand democracy as an arrangement in which the majorities are fluid and temporary, but as an instrument to establish elective tyranny. Hence, the elections as a mechanism to reconfigure coalitions and to temporarily limit power are hindered. Today he is once again leading the barrage against the INE, but he does so from the Presidency of the Republic.
How much the democrats who stood up to the PRI authoritarianism would have wanted an electoral body that was not complacent with the Government, that did not bow to violations of the law. Today Morena, the President’s party, unambiguously promotes a campaign of intimidation against the INE. The ineffable leader of the official party, Mario Delgado, spends more time attacking the electoral referee and boycotting the electoral organization than supporting his own candidacies. In 2006 I was called upon by the irate hosts of López Obrador to lock up the IFE workers with their sit-in. They were then opposition. Today they do it from power, which makes their actions more ominous.
Morena’s strategy is, evidently, that dictated by López Obrador: Delgado seeks the clash against the INE to distract from his enormous intestinal problems, when accusations of imposition in the selection of candidates abound and blaming the referee for the problems generated for its breach of the law and the messiness of its internal processes.
As in the 19th century and as in the times of the PRI regime, today the main enemy of democracy is the government itself, which should guarantee it.