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2000 Presidential Elections



     Like the emblem of Mexico's future, an eagle perched on a cactus with a nasty serpent struggling in its claws, David Crow holds the victor in the Mexican presidential elections of 2000. All these serpents look alike, so he tries to identify it. He muses and makes these guesses:
     1) Labastida is nominated as PRI candidate and the PAN-PRD alliance doesn't coalesce. The PRI wins, but the Congress remains divided between the three principal parties. Six more years of the same. However, if the PRI wins fraudulently, there will be massive social unrest, including demonstrations in the nation's principal cities and possible isolated outbreaks of armed violence. Political actors won't be willing to negotiate a non-violence pact, as happened after Salinas' election in 1988.
     2) Bartlett throws his support to Madrazo, who suprises Labastida in open primaries and wins the PRI nomination on a platform of populist economics. PRI wins in 2000 (again, absent a PRD-PAN alliance) and effects some cosmetic changes in economic policy. In this scenario, even if the Madrazo-Bartlett team didn't win the nomination, it would clearly be in a position to bargain for influence in a Labastida administration.
     3) PRD-PAN alliance comes together, possibly in a deal brokered by Camacho Solís. The big problem here is who the candidate would be and the method of selection. The PAN would not accept open primaries between the two parties since its militancy is greatly outnumbered by the PRD. The PRD, for its part, wouldn't accept the current proposal of deciding by whoever's ahead in the polls, which have Fox in the lead since December, 1988. Striking a deal between the party higher-ups would create dissidence among both parties' rank-and-file. The most likely route for the alliance to occur would be for either Fox or Cardenas to cede to the other after both campaign for some time.
     If the alliance (including the Labor Party, PT, and the Greens, PVEM) happened, it would almost certainly win the presidency, distributing cabinet posts between the parties and agreeing on a plan for government that would include "new federalism", decentralization of resources and responsibilities to local governments ("remunicipalization"), further electoral reform and tax policy.
     Two things could happen after six years: the PRI atomizes into different parties and the coalition stays in power for another six or twelve years, similar to Chile now or Colombia from 1958-1972. Conversely, the alliance could be perceived of as governing poorly, in which case the PRI bides its time, hunkers down and returns to power in 2006.
     4) The parties go it alone and Fox capitalizes on popular discontent with the PRI to win the presidency. A difficult scenario, taking into account a split opposition and possible entropy within the Fox camp after more than two years of campaigning, but remotely possible.
     Then there's always the wildcard: 1994-style political violence. It is nearly impossible to predict how likely this scenario is or how it would affect the electoral panorama should it, God forbid, come to pass. The PRI would undoubtedly attempt to replay the "vote of fear" card as it did in 1994, but wouldn't be successful if the violence were perceived as a settling of scores between power factions within the PRI or the pernicious influence of narcopolitics.
     None of the candidates would effect significant changes in the bilateral relationship with the United States, since Mexico's maneuvering room is essentially limited by its dependence on U.S. export markets, precarious economic situation and vulnerability to world economic events (including fluctuation of oil prices). If Madrazo or Cárdenas arrived to the presidency (neither of which seems likely at present), their foreign policy would assume nationalist overtones that could become more strident on issues like immigration and drug certification. Again, though, their power to bring about real change on these and other issues is seriously hampered.
     My comment: I am surprised that David does not see a Bartlett victory as a possibility. Fox and PAN would continue the present "liberal" eonomic policies, while Bartlett wants to revert to the old controlled system. Cardenas would be even less ¨liberal." However, although he admires Castro, he would not wish to bring Cuba's fate on Mexico.
     The real danger is chaos, which would present an enormous problem to the United States. The situation is so important that David's long analysis is justified.

Ronald Hilton - 06/26/99


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