Mexico 2018: Same old, or left turn?

Luis is a 2Y Mexican who believes we can do better.

Luis is a 2Y Mexican who believes we can do better.

By Luis Barrientos


On July 1, Mexico will hold elections. The seats of a President (who cannot reelect), and Congress – Senate and Deputies (Mexico’s House of Representatives) – are up for grabs.


Mexico’s path to democracy has been a rocky one. From 1929 to 2000 the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had an almost hegemonic control at the state and federal level, it was until 1997 that PRI lost its majority in Congress, and then the Presidency three years later to the National Action Party (PAN).


In 2006, Mexico lived the most competitive elections in its history – PAN won by just 250,000 votes. The runner-up was a booming and controversial figure, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). Six years later, AMLO ran again; losing against current Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), who recovered the Presidency on a wave of popular dislike of PAN for their management of the drug war and the 2008 economic crisis. PRI won with the slogan “we know how to govern” (LOL).


It is difficult to define Mexican parties across the political spectrum. PRI has been everything – started as a nationalistic centre-left party and moved to the right of the economics side/pro-globalization free-trade in the 80s, without a clear position on social issues (their position is to side with whatever gets more votes). On the other hand, PAN has always defined itself as a conservative party with values – honesty, transparency, pro free-trade, and anti-LGBT.


The most interesting figure is AMLO – he started his political career with PRI and then switched to leftist political parties, governed Mexico City before founding his own party, MORENA (a pun on religion and skin color). For its critics, AMLO is a populist in the same vein as Hugo Chavez – the worst of the nationalistic left that has plagued Latin America. For its supporters, AMLO represents Mexican values, different to the same “right-wing parties that have governed Mexico since 1929.


The elections of 2018 represent a variety of challenges for the population. These last six years of “those who know how to govern” have brought the worst corruption scandals in the history of Mexico, the highest inflation in decades, and the most violent year in a century; resulting in an approval rate of 19%. Nonetheless, the main options are:


  • MORENA – AMLO, for the third time. Current frontrunner. He is the most polarizing and well-known figure. A leftist populist or a social democrat?

  • PRI – Pepe Meade, a Yale educated technocrat who has worked for both PRI and PAN administrations. He has the challenge of selling himself as something different from the current government without alienating PRI’s traditional base

  • PAN – Ricardo Anaya, a young politician who destroyed the democratic bases of PAN in order to run for President


Besides the low popularity of the contenders, there are several factors that play a big role: Trump and his positions regarding NAFTA and immigration, illegal funding from state and federal governments to their respective candidates, violence, and the role of social networks.


An interesting election that will have several ramifications both inside and outside Mexico. Let’s see.