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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

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Mexico Hereafter

By Thiago de Aragao.

After the elections of the July 2nd, the situation in Mexico gives the impression of being better, but it is just an impression.

The seven judges responsible for the decision on a new counting of the votes have unanimously decided on the legitimacy of the electoral process occurred in July. With the confirmation of the victory of the former-minister of Energy of the president Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón not only becomes the second president belonging to PAN (Accion Nacional Party), but also the president elected in the most troubled way. His official victory does not seem to be the last chapter of this novel. We can wait for an increase in the political temperature in Mexico.

In recent statements and actions, the defeated candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) stated he will not surrender so easily. He also promises to call a general convention and to announce the creation of a parallel government in Mexico.

Unquestionable favorite during the whole campaign, Obrador has seen the possibility of becoming the first Mexican president of the Democratic Revolution Party sink. Obrador says that a general fraud occurred, especially in those states where he counted on the main popular support. Similarly to other Latin American Populists, Obrador made a good government as mayor of Mexico City. He labeled himself as the guardian of the poor and justified this denomination attracting millions of Mexicans to his famous parades and speeches. Due to this special attention to the needs of the people, Obrador started to make speeches that are typical of the Latin American left wing, in order to conquer those hesitant voters who voted in Vicente Fox in 2001, and who used the same ideas Obrador used in this campaign.

Felipe Calderón, the elected president was one of the major ministers of Vicente Fox, and acted as a counselor for general issues. His actions are opposite to Obrador´s. He defends the free initiative, the attraction of investments and uses the entrepreneurs´ language when he speaks to the people. He showed to be consistent when he presented a government plan, something that Obrador was not able to do during his campaign. This factor determined the advantage over Obrador until the end of the elections.

If there has been fraud or not, this is something that we will hardly know. After the ballot defeat, Obrador claimed the votes were recounted. According to his assessors, about 800 thousand votes have been defrauded. Outstanding numbers, since the victory of Calderón over Obrador has been of only 230 thousand votes. There are reasons to believe in certain irregularities in the Mexican electoral process. However, an irregularity so huge as the one pointed out by Obrador is very difficult to be proved.

At the end, the country loses. Philip Calderón will be installed on December the first, and up to then Obrador would have already taken his decision on the creation of a parallel government. The occupation of the main avenue in Mexico City by his supporters evidences the support he has and increases the possibility of materializing the promise of a parallel government. Obrador has also clearly stated that he will try at most to prevent a peaceful installation of Calderón in December and, if necessary, he will start a movement to dismiss him. We must know how serious are these statements, or if they derive from the heat of the emotion. In case this is confirmed, we will have a political crisis, which has never been seen before in Mexico. After achieving expressive results in the legislative elections, Obrador´s party, PRD, will make difficult the approval of projects wished by Felipe Calderón. In case of a parallel government, the things can get even worse. Obrador´s voters promise to take the streets and we fear for the most rampant acts of violence and vandalism.

Some comments can be made on the American continent. The official victory of Calderón represents a great relief for Washington. The present wave of populist governments in the continent is losing strength with Calderón´s victory. However, the internal destabilization that this victory can generate will favor populist governments in the continent. Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan president, has already demonstrated its repudiation to the "democratic fraud" in Mexico, and promised his unconditional support to Obrador. It is feared that, in case of a parallel government, Chávez can acknowledge it and impair the Mexican stability.

In case the actions of López Obrador cool down, we can expect a pragmatic government in Mexico. Calderón will continue Fox´s government, will maintain the economic growth without intervening in the economy, and will pay more attention to the social area, exactly to attract Obrador voters, who will feel abandoned. The attraction of external investment will be an important focus for the new Mexican government, and a political approximation with Washington is being planned, too.

September 2006