No choices for the people in Mexico

June 4, 2015

As Mexico holds midterm elections on June 7, Héctor A. Rivera discusses their potential impact on the prospects of the regime and of the left.

ON JUNE 7, Mexico will hold midterm elections--but the majority of Mexicans won't cast a vote.

Across the country, more than 2,000 positions are up for re-election7, including 500 posts in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Mexico's congress), nine governorships and positions in the districts of Mexico City, known as "delegaciones." Unlike previous midterms, the upcoming election is highly controversial because of the insecurity sweeping the country and the political and moral bankruptcy of the country's political parties and its electoral system.

Although trust in the regime is at an all-time low, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, by its initials in Spanish), headed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, hopes to perform well and to have enough votes through its alliance with the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) to dominate in the Chamber of Deputies. Meanwhile, left parties and social movements remain divided, and in the southern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, the calls for a complete boycott of the elections have received widespread support.

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks at a state oil industry facility that is on the privatization block
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks at a state oil industry facility that is on the privatization block

Opinion polls conducted in the lead-up to the election predict that the PRI will receive more than 30 percent of the vote and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) will get 25 percent.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)--once known as a left-wing opposition force in Mexican politics, but now fully subservient to neoliberalism, and corrupt to boot--was hoping to perform well in this year's elections.

But those hopes have been dashed since last fall. Forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa teacher's college were "disappeared" by the police forces of a PRD mayor in Iguala on September 26, 2014. The mayor also had strong ties to the PRD governor of the state. As a result, the party is now hoping for 15 percent of the vote.

The more left-wing Movement for National Regeneration Party (MORENA), founded by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (the former PRD candidate in Mexico's presidential elections in 2006 and 2012), will face its first major electoral challenge in these midterm elections. MORENA is polling at 8 percent and will be competing for fourth place with the PVEM, which is at 9 percent in the polls.

THE CONDITIONS under which these elections are taking place speak volumes about the state of Mexican society and politics. The National Electoral Institute (INE), for example, has run an advertising campaign asking people not to sell their vote--a common practice in marginalized localities where politicians buy votes with gift cards to supermarkets.

There is so much apathy, dissatisfaction and opposition to the political regime that the government, the INE and even national corporations have stepped up calls to get out the vote. The convenience store chain OXXO, for example, has made its cashiers wear large buttons asking patrons to vote.

But the extreme limitations of bourgeois democracy in Mexico are on display. At least four candidates in the upcoming election have been killed while on the campaign trail. Among them are Héctor López Cruz, a PRI candidate from Humanguillo, Tabasco; Ulises Fabián Quiroz of the PRI-PVEM coalition; and Jehová de la Cruz Gallegos from the PRD in Oaxaca. Enrique Hernández Salcedo, a founder of self-defense groups in Yurécuaro, Michoacán, and a candidate on the MORENA ticket, was also killed by an armed gunman while giving a campaign speech. His killers have not been brought to justice.

On the other hand, some of the candidates running expose the farcical character of the elections: Carmen Salinas, a well-known soap opera actress, is running on the PRI ticket as an at-large deputy in the lower house; Andrés García, another soap opera actor, is running for mayor in the resort city of Acapulco on the Humanist Party ticket; and former football superstar Cuauhtémoc Blanco is a favorite to win as mayor of Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos.

The PRI expects to perform well in these elections, even if its popularity is at an all-time low. The PRI dominated Mexico as a one-party dictatorship for 70 years, and many of its client and patronage networks are still intact. The party's well-oiled machine will allow it to win votes where municipalities have benefited from pre-election infrastructure projects, for example.

Additionally, the party will mobilize several government-affiliated unions and labor federations to get out the vote for its candidates. Social media has already begun to denounce vote-buying through gift cards and intimidation by the PRI's "Red Brigades."

Despite its lack of popularity, the PRI is confident that, with its alliance with the PVEM, it will win more than 50 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. With undisputed control, the party hopes to pave the way for the remaining three years of Peña Nieto's presidency and to push through the privatization of the state employee's health care system and extend water rights to multinationals.

AS DAN La Botz recently wrote in New Politics, "The Mexican left is more divided than at any time since the early 1980s." The PRD and MORENA will be competing head to head in many of Mexico City's districts and in other localities across the country. In some cases, smaller left parties such as the Labor Party (PT) or Citizens' Movement (MC) have formed alliances with these larger parties in the hopes of snatching a few seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

The pro-peace poet and social movement leader Javier Sicilia, along with the human rights activist and priest Alejandro Solalinde, has called for a boycott of the election altogether. They argue that to vote in these elections would only help legitimize a corrupt government and rotting political system. The parents of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa's teacher's college have also called for a boycott.

In Guerrero, Oaxaca and Michoacán, the left wing of the teachers' union, the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), is also boycotting the elections and calling for the repeal of Peña Nieto's education reforms. In these states, teachers have taken over buildings from the INE and set fire to election ballots. Teachers in Chiapas are also boycotting the elections and have occupied government offices and 14 gas stations in the state capital.

To pretend that the upcoming elections are a free exercise of a democratic right is ludicrous. Democracy does not exist in Mexico, not even republican bourgeois democracy. The vote-buying, the vote-rigging and the candidates running in these elections are a scandal.

The June 7 elections are a farce--and large swaths of the population know it. Regardless of the results, none of the political parties vying for votes will represent the interests of working-class Mexicans.

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