Mexico Has a Strong Third Political Choice for Voters | Opinion

The possibility to correct Mexico's course and set the foundations for a project with a progressive and social-democrat vision will be at stake during the June 2021 elections in Mexico City. This vibrant political movement has suffered a setback since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took office.

His election as president of Mexico in 2018 originated in a genuine hope of change in society—the hope to transform institutions. However, AMLO's administration is not changing history. It is repeating the worse practices of political clientelism, co-optation and concentration of power.

Like other demagogue and populist leaders around the world, such as former President Donald Trump or Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, AMLO's project is sustained by appealing to sentiment for a past that was deemed to be better. In this case, the past includes the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) regime, during its populist phase of the 70s and 80s, which is the school where AMLO himself comes from. A past with a strong almighty presidentialism, where the mere will of the leader, not democratic institutions, conducts and determines public life.

AMLO is guiding Mexico toward a type of semi-democratic autocracy, founded upon a strategy of concentration of power, weakening of democratic institutions and social polarization.

An example of this is the militarization process. While it began during the administrations of the National Action Party (PAN) and PRI, AMLO has been dedicated to its dramatic deepening. As an easy way out, instead of strengthening local police or building a robust, professional civil security force; the president decided in 2019 to grant control of national public security to the armed forces, the Guardia Nacional (National Guard), in violation of the constitutional amendment in national security matters, that was unanimously approved by the Federal Congress. Jointly, he has granted the armed forces duties that are inherent to the state ranging from the management of infrastructure projects—such as the new airport located in Santa Lucia—to the control of ports and customs, and the construction and management of the Bancos del Bienestar (Banks of Wellness) that are focused on social welfare.

This process is accompanied by the weakening of Mexico's democratic institutions. Under the premise of the almighty leader, dedicated to entitling himself with more faculties and control of power, institutions and counterbalances are contrary and uncomfortable to his governing scheme. We can here identify three alarming phenomena under his administration.

The first are actions aimed toward weakening and delegitimizing the nation's autonomous organisms, such as those that are dedicated to transparency and anti-trust regulation (two areas of public life that are absolutely fastidious for AMLO). Second, the subordination of the legislative branch, where the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) has a majority and the opposition parties, such as PRI and PAN, have acted as accomplices in decisions that have been crucial to weaken institutions. Third, holding the judiciary branch captive through measures like the intimidation of judges and magistrates, as well as building a relationship of complicity with the president of the Supreme Court of Justice. A two year extension of the president of the Court's tenure has been promoted by AMLO, in an unprecedented and unconstitutional act, with the complacency of the dominating majority in both chambers.

The Mexican flag is seen at half mast at the Zocalo Square in Mexico City on May 5, 2021, after 25 people died in an accident in which an elevated metro partially collapsed with train cars. PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

In this context of democratic decomposition, a parenthesis on the role of oppositions in Mexico must be made. The three parties that have controlled public life for the last 30 years have decided to form an alliance for purposes of "stopping" AMLO. However, when it has come to key decisions where their votes have been essential to approve constitutional amendments proposed by AMLO, they have voted in favor. Pointedly, two of said decisions have contributed to the concentration of power by the president: the expansion of crimes that merit preventive prison—which he has used to threaten the opposition—and the reform of the judiciary branch, which has secured his hold over the institution.

The coalition between PRI, PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) is not only an unexpected alliance between a variety of failures, it is also an opportunistic simulation that feeds on the polarization imposed by AMLO, which these parties aim to use to save the political gaps that remain.

In the face of these two visions: AMLO's, which seeks to guide us toward an autocracy, and the league of the same actors who want to return to the past, Movimiento Ciudadano has positioned itself as a third option for Mexicans.

This is not circumstantial. During the last few years, Movimiento Ciudadano has been consistent in its political attitudes and actions, which have positioned it as a different option. First, it has come to the defense of concrete causes and agendas that are necessary for political change—which, by the way, have been disregarded by the AMLO administration—such as environmental protection, the promotion of human rights, the acknowledgement and respect of differences and the defense of women's rights.

Second, it has acted with responsibility and intelligence as a political opposition force. This means opposing and combating the government's wrong decisions, as well as knowing when it is possible to build upon and rectify its decisions. Third, it has built effective governments that are truly focused on transformation agendas, such as the case of the State of Jalisco's government and a multitude of municipalities in the country.

These governments have demonstrated that it is possible to break up polarization and build a third option for citizens by embarking on processes of political, economic and institutional change.

Clemente Castañeda is a Mexican senator and national president of Movimiento Ciudadano.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.