For AMLO, the popular consultation is a triumph with a face of defeat
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won the presidency of Mexico in 2018 with 30 million votes. Three years later, in the midterm elections, the coalition that brought him to power obtained 20 million votes. And two months later, in a consultation strongly promoted by the workers’ movement with the false argument that it would serve to prosecute the former presidents (who all belong to the opposition), it barely managed to summon less than seven million participants.
Seen numerically, it looks like an accelerated decline of the president. It is a false impression.
If AMLO has shown something throughout his political history, it is that he never loses popular consultations. In 2001, when he was head of the Government of Mexico City, he needed to increase the price of the Metro ticket. For that, a query was invented that endorsed the unpopular increase.
Already as president-elect, in 2018, he mounted another farce of consultation to define if the work of the new metropolitan airport should be canceled, as he wanted. And so also “the people” wanted. Then he put together another to endorse his social programs. As acting president, he did the same to cancel the construction of a brewing plant in the north of the country.
Unlike all of them, the recent consultation on Sunday, August 1, was professionally organized by the National Electoral Institute. The numbers did not favor him but the result, however, was not different: AMLO got his way.
The president declared in 2020 that he was against prosecuting former presidents because his government should look to the future and not to the past. However, all the muscle of his bishops – propagandists, intellectuals, activists, journalists, and notably his party, Morena – was devoted to promoting the consultation as an act of reckoning against the corruption of the past. It failed miserably. 37.4 million positive votes were required to approve what could have resulted in a kind of Truth Commission that brought five former presidents of Mexico and their collaborators to the dock of confessions. They were missing almost 30 million votes.
Why did AMLO raise the query, but announced that he would not even come to vote and that he was against the idea of the trial of the past?
The former presidents have been very useful figures for AMLO because he can blame them for all his inability to govern: the country remains in a crisis of insecurity , there are 241,000 official deaths from the pandemic, up to 9.8 million new poor due to the economic crisis and scandals. corruption even in his family , but he insists that it is all due to previous governments. In addition, it is not clear if he wants to open the prison door to former presidents because, after what has happened in these three years, in 2024 when his term ends, he could be a strong candidate to enter through that same door.
With a consultation without legal validity for not having the minimum number of participants, now the president can do with the former presidents whatever he pleases: if he only wants to continue using them as an excuse for his failures, where he has his daily conferences to remember his outrages; If he wants to proceed legally against them, he could have investigated them for a long time, and the Attorney General’s Office can still do so. After all, this is a president who says almost daily that his predecessors committed serious crimes but that he only has a couple of his officials in jail.
However, there is something that should set off the alarms of the president and his people: they no longer have what they call “the people” in the bag. After three years in office, with very poor results, the citizens are no longer willing to accompany the caudillo in his follies. It is one thing to have given him the opportunity in 2018, and quite another to back him again in the midterm elections, much less in what his followers falsely called “consultation on former presidents.”
On the other hand, if the opposition thinks that only the six million citizens who voted yesterday are the measure of the president’s popularity, it is wrong. AMLO continues to be a popular president, with enormous power and intimidation capabilities, whose government plan is to grab counterweights and democratic institutions, and who, like every president, wants to define who will succeed him in power.
The popular consultation – which aroused very little interest among citizens due to its ambiguity – provides an x-ray of the Obradorista political style: the president’s project needs to be permanently in a campaign and in conflict, whether with a real or invented enemy and at all times making comparative propaganda to exalt its virtues or benefits. In the end, there is the continuous construction of distractors so that the reality of the current government is not judged, the concrete results.