In early July 2014, Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) granted official registrations to three new political parties. As of August 1, these parties joined with the existing seven parties holding national registration to make a total of 10 political parties now slurping at the trough of public monies provided to parties with registration. The INE granted each of the new groups a welcome gift of approximately US$230,000 to tide them over through the end of the current year before their full annual subsidies kick in next year.
The new parties are named as follows:
- Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Morena)
- Partido Encuentro Social (PES)
- Partido Humanista (PH)
They follow in a long tradition of so-called “mini-parties” that have provided some color to Mexico’s political landscape since the emergence of the PRI in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. From 1929 through 2000, Mexico functioned largely as a single-party state under the PRI, but the PRI permitted and even encouraged other small parties to exist under its careful supervision in order to create the appearance of a multi-party democracy. It was not at all convincing, but for most of this time Mexico in the international context was like that farm on the hill that nobody knows what’s going on there but as long as the farmer waves back when you drive by, who cares. For a substantial portion of this time, the leading small party was the National Action party (PAN), which long played Washington Generals to the PRI’s Harlem Globetrotters until the PAN actually won the presidency in 2000. The lengthy list of other parties that appeared and disappeared during this period included many variations on Socialist, Communist, People’s and Worker’s themes.
Led by dynamic businessman-turned-politician (later to become deer-in-headlights President) Vicente Fox, the PAN capitalized on the PRI’s weakening grip on society to win the presidency in 2000. The PAN remained in power for two presidential periods totaling 12 years (2000 – 2012). During this time, a system of government subsidies for qualifying new parties, with the ostensible objective of strengthening the multi-party system, created fertile ground for newly found devotion to public service. Numerous parties have come and gone, depending on their ability to obtain 3% of the vote in national elections, the threshold for maintaining registration. One recurring theme is to form a party for the political and economic purposes of a particular individual, with benefits often extending to the individual’s family. Such is the case of the Mexican Green Party (PVEM), founded by a member of a family with high level political and business interests and now run by his son. (Note: The “Green” in Mexican Green Party is a ruse and this organization was publicly disowned by the European Green Party years ago.) Another example is the New Alliance Party (PANAL), founded by former National Teachers Union (SNTE) head and current jailbird Elba Esther Gordillo and subsequently run by her daughter with active participation by her grandson.
Of the three new parties, by a wide margin the most important is Morena, which is the new political vehicle of twice presidential candidate, rumored biblical figure and eternal protector of the fatherland Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). After twice running unsuccessfully for the presidency for the left’s standard bearer PRD, AMLO acrimoniously split with the party to form Morena with a third presidential run in his sights. As such, the principal importance of Morena is that it effectively splits the country’s sizable leftist constituency in two. While the PRD has made overtures to Morena, AMLO refuses to play ball with his former party, perilously weakening the left’s effectiveness as a political force at this juncture.
Compared to the importance of Morena, at this stage the PES and PH are little more than yawn-inducing political remoras, lining up for their share of INE handouts. Wagging tongues in local media allege that PES is a Christian fundamentalist party, run by a neo-Pentecostalist minister with a religious agenda. The party’s head denies he is a minister, but his frequent references to “family values” and “morality” in interviews suggest where this is headed. PH is headed by former members of the PRI and the PAN. The aforementioned wagging tongues allege the Partido Humanista is backed by Mexico’s immediate past President Felipe Calderón, and YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! If you do, please let us know because we do not. Calderón has denied the link, but politics is nothing without heresay and innuendo, so help yourself to the rumors of your choice.
All of the three new parties claim they represent a departure from politics as usual in favor of scrupulous honesty, human dignity and concern for the nation’s disenfranchised. We hope that they will revolutionize Mexican politics for the better, but we actually expect that PES and PH will live off the taxpayers for a few years and then disappear. Morena undoubtedly will provide a good measure of we-laughed-we-cried political theater and perhaps sabotage both its own and the PRD’s chances of gaining market share in Congress as well as their respective dreams of a serious run at the Presidency in 2018. In the meantime, José Lunchpail will be picking up the tab for their hookers and blow for the next six years.