Mexico: Midterm Elections and the Fourth Transformation

By Luis Hernández Navarro on June 8, 2021

The size of the electoral triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018 made some of his supporters believe that an overwhelming victory in the midterm elections three years later would be inevitable. Although the final and definitive results of the voting last Sunday are not yet known, with the information we have so far, it is clear that the MORENA party did not get the votes that they expected and needed.

The Fourth Transformation (the program of Mexican President Lopez Obrador -“AMLO”) won the majority of the state elections. But in Mexico City, which has been his main area of strength since 1988, the party lost in at least nine of the 16 municipal areas ( Xochimilco is still not definitely called) and 12 local Congressional districts. Although, without any doubt, they continue to be the principal political force in the Chamber of Deputies, they did not obtain the absolute or super-majority that they sought from voters in their campaign, and that they need to continue to go forward with their reforms.

MORENA lost, as well, in many of the most important cities in the country, with the exceptions of Tijuana and Acapulco. In Monterrey and Guadalajara, the Movimiento Ciudadano party won; in Querétaro it was the PAN ( National Action Party – the right-wingers); in Puebla it was the coalition of Compromiso por Puebla with Pacto Social de Integración; in Morelia it was the coalition PAN with Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD); in Guanajuato it was the PAN; in Cuernavaca the alliance of PAN with PSD; in Hermosillo it was Va Sonora (a regional party); in Toluca it was the convergence of PAN-PRI-PRD; while in Veracruz the PAN took Medellin, Alvarado, Boca Del Rio and the city of Veracruz itself.

The opposition parties, which were reduced almost to insignificance by the tsunami of 2018, were revived and strengthened this June 6, by means of the right-wing business class. Despite the setbacks suffered in several states, it emerges with enough strength to block or veto government initiatives and to publicly carry on a true conservative opposition (not merely the intellectuals, management groups, and the newspapers) to the Fourth Transformation. It also has gained power in Mexico City that it has lacked in recent decades.

It is noteworthy, however, that in spite of the pandemic, the economic crisis, the insecurity and discontent of the middle classes, the Fourth Transformation has only suffered resounding defeats in the country’s capitol. This is no small thing. This fact shows the extent to which the undoubted approval that Lopez Obrador retains in public opinion served as a barrier to the disaffection being shown more broadly at the polls.

There is an accumulated sense of unease among artists, academics, scientists, intellectuals, teachers and students of education, feminists, environmentalists, human rights defenders, and victims’ associations that was not expressed directly in favor of any party or candidate – except in Mexico City – but was shown by voiding the ballot or writing slogans on it.  Part of this anger was disseminated by social media, showing photos of ballots crossed out or with slogans such as “Tamir Lives,” “Where is Wendy,?” “Long live Mactumactzá and Teteles,” “Land, Water, and Liberty,” “Marichuy” “Against the Femicides and Disappearances,” and many others. To measure the extent of this sort of protest is almost impossible.

The electoral results are bad news for the two main figures hoping to be the MORENA candidate in the next presidential elections: Claudia Sheinbaum and Marcelo Ebrard. On the other hand, for the third contender, Ricardo Monreal, they are not bad. Gabriel Garcia came through as a political operative.

Claudia Sheinbaum is the biggest loser of this episode. She put two very low level people in front of the elections, whom the public ignored completely. Her policies of alliances was disastrous and many of her candidates did not come through. The MORENA party in Mexico City ended up in tatters, exhausted in the fight and damaging others with abundant “friendly fire.”

Mario Delgado, Marcelo’s man heading up the party, agreed to a huge number of undesirable candidates, making agreements with organized crime factions, as well as with old time functionaries of the PRI or with the Greens, to the point at which he converted MORENA into a political organism just like those that the best members of this party have fought against for decades.  At the same time, he failed to fulfill many agreements established with his own party stalwarts and left many important and conscientious strugglers off the list of candidates aspiring to represent the people. The results he delivered leave a lot to be desired. The demand for his resignation is like a landslide.

Oddly enough, in spite of the re-positioning of the parties in the national political scene, it didn’t go very well for the leaders of the PRI, PAN, or PRD either.  Everything seems to indicate that Alejandro Moreno lost his Campeche stronghold, and the only thing that gives him some breathing space in the ranks is that Adrian de la Garza, who threatened to overtake him in Nuevo Leon, was also defeated.  The PAN triumphs seem to be more the work of the governors or of the candidates themselves, rather than of Marko Antonio Cortés. And their leadership – defeatist and corrupt – killed themselves off long ago under the Aztec sun.

Although their results in some states were mediocre, everything seems to indicate that the attempt of the Movimiento Ciudadano Party (MC) to locate themselves as a hinge party (or key coalition partner) between the two main parliamentary blocks has been successful. Their win for the governorship of Nuevo Leon and in cities like Monterrey and Guadalajara, and their competitiveness in Campeche, give them some territorial reach and resources.

MORENA got through the test of the midterm elections.  However, their triumph is far from the results that they needed to be able to go forward with their vision for the country.  Along the way, they have lost an important segment of the middle classes.  In national politics, times are coming that are even more complex than those we have lived through up to now.

Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano -English