Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a member of the Morena party, was elected the president of Mexico on July 1, 2018, signaling a distinct shift in Mexico’s political climate. López Obrador, nicknamed AMLO, ran on a platform of poverty relief and governmental transparency—promises as enticing to the Mexican people as they are difficult to achieve. Many Mexicans and world citizens interested in international news view this election as the start of a new era in Mexican politics. While AMLO’s win is perhaps unprecedented, an analysis of Mexican history and AMLO’s campaign clarify that the 2018 election was certainly historic, but not as revolutionary as some might think.
Porfirio Diaz, PRI, and a Legacy of Control
Mexico languished under the rule of dictator Porfirio Diaz from 1876 until he was overthrown in 1911. The violent and economically taxing revolution that followed his dictatorship produced a group that would control Mexican politics for the rest of the century: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (referred to as the PRI). Presidential candidates from the P.R.I. were elected until 2000, as corruption and nepotism dominated the party, and Mexico’s citizens lost confidence in their government.
In 2000, Mexico elected a non-PRI president for the first time in almost seventy years: Vicente Fox, member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). The PAN prevailed when Felipe Calderón was elected in 2006, but the PRI returned to power in 2012 with Enrique Peña Nieto’s election. Still, governmental corruption and poverty continued to plague Mexico, and, exhausted with governmental failure, Mexico’s people produced the party and candidate that became victorious in 2018.
Morena and AMLO
The National Regeneration Movement, nicknamed Morena, was established in 2015. The party states that it was founded upon “the conviction that only the people can save the people and that only the organized people can save the nation [which] will only be possible with the decisive political participation of citizens.” Morena’s members are diverse: Marxists, evangelists, business executives, and some former members of the PRI, brought together by their desire to effect change as citizens of a nation held captive by its own political history. Despite the united front presented during the election, the diversity within the party has already led to tensions between its members and elected officials—just one of many obstacles the young party faces.
The president, sworn in at the beginning of September, is battling his own difficulties, especially inaccurate representations of his policy in Mexican and world media. When AMLO ran for president in 2006, the PAN negatively characterized him as a socialist. AMLO is not a socialist, and although some have described him as a “Mexican Hugo Chavez,” his platform is not consistent with a socialist agenda. This both helps and hurts him, as there is a large contingency Mexicans who would prefer a socialist president. On the other side of the political spectrum, AMLO has sparked comparisons to Donald Trump, in part for his age (he’s the oldest president ever elected in Mexico) and for his ambitious campaign promises. AMLO stated during his campaign that his goal was to create discourse between honest citizens and corrupt politicians—a promise that resonated with Trump supporters—but also vowed to improve social welfare programs and redistribute wealth, distinguishing him from the American president. While AMLO’s goals are ambitious, he has the congressional majority and the support of over fifty percent of Mexico’s population, which will likely prove to be assets in the years ahead.
The 2018 Mexican Presidential Election: A New Day?
AMLO and the Morena party made lofty promises that will be difficult to fulfill within a single term. Still, since AMLO is the first challenger to the ruling parties since the creation of the modern Mexican government in the 1910s, he is a symbol of real revolution to many Mexican citizens. In just the last twenty years, Mexico has suffered violence, poverty, discrimination by other world powers (most recently the U.S.), and natural disasters. The promise of change and advancement that the Morena party offered is obviously enticing, but as in any constitutional republic, it is important to remember that the president cannot remake the country by himself. AMLO can only accomplish what he’s promised with both governmental support and a concrete plan of legislative action—something he has yet to produce. Still, the idea of a single leader who can save the country is alluring, and perhaps not entirely without utility. After all, AMLO’s promises vulcanized a new political party in Mexico, and encouraged citizens to get involved in political discourse about how to effect real change. He may not be the Mexican Hugo Chavez, but, as one supporter of the Morena party stated, “His program isn’t to make revolution. It’s to allow people to hope again.” Perhaps AMLO’s election isn’t the dawn of a new day in Mexico, but it certainly sheds light on a situation that has been dark for far too long.
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