The author was the presidential candidate of the Socialist Coalition in Mexico’s July 2 election.
By Manuel Aguilar Mora
MEXICO CITY-The July 2 election victory for Vicente Fox, the presidential candidate of the Alliance for Change (formed by the National Action Party-PAN), marked the end of the long reign of the official party, the Constitutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The latter party, under a different name, was formed by the group of generals who emerged victorious from the Mexican revolution and imposed their dominance over the other revolutionary factions through General Obregon’s 1920 coup d’etat.
Fox assumes the presidency as a representative of the loyal bourgeois opposition party, the PAN, a party founded in 1939 specifically to oppose the postrevolutionary clique headed at that time by President Lazaro Cardenas. The self-perpetuation of the group in power has now been broken.
It was a line of succession that had assured a notable but flexible homogeneity of an opportunist political oligarchy that used a variety of languages to justify itself. Its discourse ran from nationalism, to socialist-sounding verbiage, to modernist liberalism, and finally to the most rigid model of “neoliberal globalization.”
Fox’s victory is the result of an electoral landslide that completely blocked any attempt at rigging the elections by the traditional PRI groups. Up to the last minute, the PRI groups enjoyed enormous financial resources and, to the extent that they were able, used their accustomed methods to try to impose their candidate, Francisco Labastida.
Up until days before the July 2 vote, the polls showed a neck-and-neck race between the two leading candidates. The polls that showed Fox winning gave him a margin of victory of only a few points. None of them predicted the seven point lead that he got in the actual voting.
Even taking account of the questionable methods used by most of the pollsters, we cannot fail to recognize that these polls reflected the fact that a major part of the population remained undecided up until July 2, when they went over decisively to Fox.
Rulers approved both main candidates
In 2000, it became clear that the PRI as the single instrument of bourgeois rule had ceased to be useful. For this reason, the ruling clique headed by Zedillo did not hesitate a moment in accepting Fox’s victory.
The PAN, and especially its presidential candidate and the team directly linked to him (including strong imperialist supporters) since 1988 had already penetrated into the top ruling circles both at the state and federal levels.
This is indicated by PAN’s alliance with former president Salinas de Gortari and the agreement to shore up Fobaproa [a bailout for big business] that was the major project of the six-year reign that is now ending, in which Fox played a leading role.
After July 2 it has been evident that the ruling clique in reality ended up accepting both Fox and Labastida as plants grown in the garden of the dominant neoliberal technocratic clique. The ruling group has had closer and closer ties with U.S. imperialism since the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and this has also included a political adjustment.
The ideology cultivated and propagandized by the imperialist media has made the alternation of the presidency among different parties the touchstone of a democratic system.
This is the apparent democracy of the two-party system in the United States of the Republican and Democratic parties that represent the dominant sectors of the imperialist class and have a common position of unconditional defense of the interests of U.S. imperialism around the world.
For the imperialists and for the capitalist stability of Mexico itself, a repetition of the election computers “going down” as they did in 1988 or a crisis of the government’s legitimacy-as in 1994, with the Zapatista uprising and the assassinations of top PRI leaders-were absolutely unacceptable.
In fact, the PRI has been condemned for years. The sentence was carried out, albeit late, on July 2. It was confirmed by the defeat of the PRI in the vote for the governor of the state of Chiapas less than two months after the national election.
Fox’s entry into the presidential palace is the natural result of the political and economic changes ushered in by President Miguel de la Madrid [1982-88, who initiated the turn to neoliberalism], deepened by his successor, Salinas de Gortari, and continued systematically by the outgoing president Zedillo.
The three last PRI presidents paved the way for Fox with their policy of open doors for imperialist capital, of protecting and subsidizing Mexican big capital, and their unconditional adherence to the line of globalization dictated by the “Washington consensus” and applied by the international financial agencies.
Immediately after July 2, the stock market rose, the exchange rate fell to less than 10 pesos to the dollar, and imperialist investment flowed in anew.
“Make your vote count”
Fox assumes the presidency with the evident political capital of representing the historic defeat of the PRI. This fact alone gives him considerable political strength.
However, an analysis of the election figures provides a basis for a more realistic assessment of the scope of his victory.
About 16 million people voted for Fox, about 42.5 percent of the total vote, and little more than a fourth of the 59 million registered votes, and about one fifth of the adult population of 80 million. Labastida got a little more than 13.5 million votes; that is 2.5 million more than the PRI got in 1997 although 3.5 million less than Zedillo got in the last presidential election in 1994.
The other opposition [pro-capitalist] candidate, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, was the July 2 election’s biggest loser. He got 6,250,000 votes (16.6 percent of the total), almost 800,000 votes less than those cast for the deputies and senators on the slate of the Alliance For Mexico, the PRD’s electoral formation.
Fox won in 19 [out of 32] Mexican states and the Federal District. In the latter, electoral participation was higher than elsewhere, exceeding 71 percent.
In Guanajuato, the state where Fox was governor, he won a landslide victory of more than 60 percent. Labastida came out ahead in 11 states and Cardenas in only one.
Many sections of the population voted for Fox without supporting the PAN, because they thought that he was the candidate with the best chance of beating the PRI. They fell for the “make your vote count” line touted incessantly by the Fox campaign.
This argument was a deadly trap for the PRD candidates. Thus Fox got 1.8 million votes more than the PAN’s electoral formation, the Alliance for Change, and attracted more than two-thirds of the anti-PRI vote.
Conversely, Cardenas got 683,000 votes less than the deputies on the Alliance for Mexico slate. Hundreds of thousands of PRD voters turned their backs on their presidential candidate.
PAN still a minority in legislature
The difference in the vote between the presidential and congressional candidates has created a situation where Fox will have to bargain for support for his legislative proposals, since the PAN failed to win a majority in either house.
In the Chamber of Deputies, the PAN won 207 seats, as against 211 for the PRI, seven for the Labor Party (PT) and 17 for the PVEM [small satellites of the PRI], and 50 for the PRD. The remaining eight seats were divided among three small parties.
In the Senate, the PAN got 45 seats, as against 59 for the PRI, one for the PT and five for the PVEM, while the PRD got 17 seats.
Moreover, the PAN does not have the links to mass social organizations nor the apparatus and tradition that kept the PRI in power for seven decades.
In the short term, the PAN’s lack of ties to bureaucratic mass organizations offers room for a diversionist maneuver trying to make these organizations into scapegoats for the political crisis. Thus, it can be to the advantage of the ruling group, which remains solid and secure after the arrival of Fox and his team. But in the medium and long term, the bourgeoisie may face real difficulties arising from the absence of PRI control of broad sections of the masses.
The PAN’s big advantage for the nucleus of oligarchs represented by Fox and Zedillo is that it is a conservative party totally favorable to deepening Mexico’s subordination to the United States. It has no nationalist tradition that needs to be repudiated now that the ruling group has gone over bag and baggage to imperialist globalization.
In response, “our country is not for sale” has become the slogan of the National Resistance Front Against Privatization of the Electrical Industry, whose motor force is the Mexican Electrical Workers Union, the only major union led by a team independent of the government-controlled trade-union bureaucracy.
In the less than two months since Fox’s victory, we have seen a conspicuous right turn by various groups of politicians, bosses, and clerics. For example, advisors close to Fox have proposed a “value-added tax,” amounting to about 15 per cent of the value of food products and medicines that are now untaxed. The threat of a rise in the cost of living that this would produce immediately touched off a wave of protests, which for the moment have forced Fox to retreat.
In August, the decision by the PAN deputies in the state of Guanajuato to close off all legal avenues of access to abortion aroused a furor, showing that political tensions are rising in the country. This affair became the first postelection political scandal. It provoked a public polemic over the question of the right to abortion in the mass media in an unprecedented way.