How to read the Mexican election

The arrival of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shouldn’t have surprised anyone familiar with the state of Mexico’s political economy.  The return of PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) after having lost power in 2000 from a 71 year rule didn’t change much; that’s the primary reason explaining Obrado’s win.  His election destroyed both the political center and duopoly between PRI & PAN (National Action Party), Mexico’s twin leading parties.

By any reckoning, he’ll fail, if the Mexican Congress can’t get a serious reform agenda moving again.  Having won control of Congress with majorities, the capital, Obrador can muster serious reform IF he can translate his electoral gains legislatively.

The problem rests with chief characteristics that dominated his campaign, namely a belief in a combination of moral rectitude, good intentions and populism can fix Mexico. It can’t.  Only by building strong political governing institutions can Mexico reform itself.  A tall order.

How does he achieve this?

By seeking defections in the Mexican Congress, he can pick up a two-thirds majority making it easier to amend the Constitution. That means he must muster ruling majorities over the 92 seats that PAN has; see the chart below on the ideological make up of 500 member Chamber of Deputies.

A brief look at the constitutive ideological components of Obrador’s ruling coalition (named Moreno) reveals a lot.  A mix of anti-capitalists (Workers Party-PT), the conservatives (Social Encounter Party) reveals irreconcilable components that more closely resembles Germany’s current crisis. However, many are self-identified as radicals along with those who’ve never had political experience. I expect Obrador to move to placate his radical wing early on by overturning education & petrol reform.

We should note that Obrador’s ruling coalition does not control Mexico’s 32 gubernatorial seats; this may be the only bulwark against his populism.

Once in office, leaders change.  And this may happen to Obrador.  I expect him to play a leading role in three important regional initiatives, the Lima-Merosur Group and Pacific Alliance.  Lima is responsible for openly promoting Democratic change in Venezuela while Pacific Alliance and Merosur aims for regional macro-regulatory symmetry throughout Latin America. This is significant for Mexico continues to export most of his gains abroad.  For Mexico to receive any gains in the current structure of his political economy it must export more to Asia with seeking intra-regional trade.

Morena needs an opening salvo, it should seek a stronger economy with trade diversification, closer regional alignment and new markets in Asia.



About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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