T
he past Sunday's election in 4 states of Mexico City is a pre-cursor of what's to come in 2018. The states’ gubernatorial race is an important barometer of Mexican politics and they are a major opportunity to test the popularity of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) from the leftist party MORENA.

The results are still being contested in almost all states and most importantly in the State of Mexico, what has been called by many the Jewel of the Crown of the PRI regime, the party that successfully ruled Mexico for over 70 years. A PRI victory in this state would give the party a much-needed boost as the president's approval ratings have dipped near single digits ahead of the 2018 race for the nation's top office. But losing a state it has governed without interruption for 88 years would be a devastating blow a year after the PRI lost in several other states it had also always dominated. The loss of the 16-million-strong State of Mexico and its financial resources would be a major blow to the PRI in its bid to stop Lopez Obrador from winning the presidency next year. The State of Mexico is home to one in eight Mexican voters and victory there would have provided AMLO with a springboard to the top job.

For the PRI, the state also holds profound symbolic significance, having been at the core of its power since the party was founded in 1929 after the tumult of the revolutionary era. The party has never lost a gubernatorial election here. President Peña Nieto, himself a former governor of Mexico state, was elected in 2012 in a rousing comeback and reset for the ruling party. The PRI had lost consecutive presidential elections in 2000 and 2006 to the conservative National Action Party. If the PRI loses the state of Mexico that would practically cancel its chances to win the presidency next year

What became evident last Sunday was that not only mistrust is still commonplace in Mexican elections but also that mainstream political parties still lack democratic spirit to participate in competitive elections. Whoever claims victory, reality is that the current electoral system in Mexico does not guarantee governance, does not reflect the majority of the population and does not produce legitimate rulers. Neither MORENA nor PRI, the parties who obtained most of the votes in the State of Mexico, can be called legitimate when they will only represent 10 to 15% of the electorate. While it is true that society has become increasingly participative, this is still not reflected in the number of people that cast their votes: Only 54% of the population voted in the State of Mexico. This should be a wake-up call for the political parties as they have been unable to attract a large segment of the population.

The current structure of the Mexican electoral system since the transition to democracy in 2000 creates minority governments that have been caught up in a legislative paralysis as opposition parties see opposing rather than co-governing as more electorally fruitful. Mexico has an electoral system that favours political fragmentation and the dispersion of useful votes among too many political alternatives with no real chances of ever attaining power.

Ever since the PRI lost presidential power in the 2000, a chant has been repeatedly heard across Mexico: The return of PRI to the power is a step back in democracy: Get PRI out of power to give democracy a chance. After 2 failed administrations of the opposing party PAN and almost no real progress towards a real and consolidated democracy in Mexico, people need to understand that democracy needs more than a change of the party in power to survive and thrive.

Current political parties in Mexico, including the newly created MORENA, have been unable to represent and attract a significant number of citizens. AMLO lost the elections in the state of Mexico not because of an electoral fraud but rather because of his need to be the only and most prominent figure of this party. He was unable to forge alliances with the parties that could have catapulted his candidate to power in this state. The need to become the star of the show has blinded AMLO’s ability to analise and understand the political reality Mexico is currently facing. It has been said that one of the many problems Mexico has is the lack of historical memory of its people. This is also evident in those supporters of mainstream political parties, there are very few people who take the time to analyse the political career of candidates, their political platforms and viability of their proposals; the checks and balances of their past administrations as well as the people they decide to associate and forge alliances with. It is very hard to believe AMLO is indeed looking to create an alternative project for the country when he is surrounded by people who are the living image of corruption and embezzlement in Mexican politics: Elba Esther Gordillo, Ricardo Monreal, Fernado Espino and Napoléon Gómez Urritua to name a few. These should be the last people a candidate that claims to be anti-establishment should be seen around.

PRD held the keys to the administration of the State of Mexico for MORENA and it may as well be the party who could finally take AMLO to the presidency in 2018. The danger here is that AMLO has demonstrated to be a leader unable to negotiate and unable to see others at the same level. Far from working out the possibility of an alliance with PRD in these elections, he demanded absolute obedience. In 2006 AMLO frowned upon the possibility of an alliance with Patricia Mercado, the then candidate of the Social Democrats, and whose 2.7% of votes would have been enough to beat PAN’s candidate Felipe Calderon, AMLO repeated the same mistake in 2017: Lopez Obrador eschewed a political coalition in Mexico state with the Democratic Revolution Party, to which he belonged before breaking ranks in 2012 — after his second presidential defeat, which he also attributed to fraud — to form MORENA. An alliance between the two parties would have united the left behind a single office seeker. By doing so, he let the 19% of PRD votes slip right through his hands and helped PRI maintain their jewel of the crown: the State of Mexico.

Since President Enrique Peña Nieto won in 2012, the Mexican presidential elections of 2018 have had one clear contender: Andrés Manuel López Obrador. If AMLO wants to stop being the runner-up and to finally attain power in 2018, he needs to start showing a much more tolerant attitude and open mind. He needs to learn to negotiate rather than to impose.

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Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza is a political columnist and PhD candidate who has spoken at numerous international conferences on issues relating to international affairs.

Her publications include: “Brain Drain: Social and Political Consequences for Latin American Countries”, Grafía, Universidad Autónoma de Colombia, Vol.10, No.2 (2013)  “Fuga de Talentos: Consecuencias Sociales y Políticas en Países en Desarrollo en America Latina”, inL Chen, A Saladino Garcia, H Chen,  La Nueva Nao : De Formosa a America Latina. Bicentario del Nombramiento de Simon Bolivar como Libertador, Universidad de Tamkang, China  ISBN 978-986-5982-34-8 (2013). “Colonial Legacies in Contemporary Latin America”, Revista Academus,Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro/Instituto de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias, Vol. 6, No. 10 (2014)

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