We are days away from the start of electoral campaigns in what has been called the biggest elections in the history of Mexico, due to the huge number of positions in dispute.
More than 21,000 seats to completely renew the Chamber of Deputies at the national level, 15 governors, 30 local congresses and 1,900 city councils and municipal councils at the subnational level.
It is expected that during the two months of the campaign the current political polarization, created and fed by the speeches and behaviors of the leaders of the government and opposition parties, will deepen and end up being transferred to the polls.
Since January 15, the General Council of the National Electoral Institute (INE) has approved the registration of two partial coalitions called “Juntos haremos História” (Together we will make history) and “Va por México” (For Mexico).
The first is the governing coalition led by the Morena (National Regeneration Movement) party, the same formula that reached an overwhelming majority in the 2018 federal elections.
The second is formed by the three most important parties that competed during the last two decades of the transition to democracy: PAN, PRD and PRI. This coalition, which is still unsettling, will seek to take the majority of the seats of Morena and his allies in the Chamber of Deputies.
However, in Mexico, politics at the subnational level often develops electoral competition dynamics that are different from those at the national level.
An example of this is the various coalition combinations for the 15 state governments at stake.
According to Massive Caller surveys conducted on March 28, 12 states have bipartisan competition with coalitions, and in three states (Campeche, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosi) the competition is fragmented into three political forces. In the first two, with the competitive presence of Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizen Movement), and in the third of the PVEM and PT coalition.
According to the same survey, Morena and her allies start campaigns with the intention of majority voting in 10 of the 15 states at stake; in 7 of them, with a wide margin of support.
In turn, the PAN has an advantage in Querétaro, the PAN-PRD coalition in Chihuahua, the PAN-PRD-PRI coalition shows a reduced advantage in Baja California Sur and San Luis Potosí, and finally the Movimiento Ciudadano, which has been increasing his support, leads by one point in an extremely fierce competition with the PRI-PRD and Morena-PT-PVEM and PANAL coalitions in Nuevo León.
Now, in the electoral arena, parties tend to be extremely pragmatic, and the strategy of forming coalitions seeks to add as many votes as possible, especially in contexts of changing competition.
Undoubtedly, the results of the 2018 elections consolidated Morena and its allies as the dominant official bloc, with a majority in both chambers of the Legislative Branch and a strong presence in most states.
Political polarization in the run-up to the elections
The hostile speeches and behaviors in relation to the “other” political alternatives that have been promoted by the leaders of the ruling bloc, such as the opposition leaders and the media – traditional or social networks – generate a climate of political polarization that does not favor at all democracy.
In a situation of democratic erosion, what is needed is the recognition of the other as a citizen in order to establish some type of negotiation or agreement that facilitates and strengthens the stability of the political system.
In addition to the political leaders already mentioned, new actors appear, or reappear, that through their speeches amplify the antagonisms.
This week, businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego declared that “INE must die or disappear”. This is after a series of agreements by the electoral administration body that has affected, at least temporarily, while the authority in charge of electoral justice resolves, the candidacies of some parties.
The move particularly affected two candidates for the government of Morena and its allies, who maintain the advantage in voting intentions for Michoacán and Guerrero, as well as changes in the designation of seats for representation.
Undoubtedly, the INE General Council’s agreements have caused discomfort and worrying reactions. And while the decision is in accordance with the law, it is not entirely timely, as it disrupts the formal and informal agreements and negotiations that the parties have made to enter coalitions.
Although the attacks on the electoral authority are worrying – like the severe budget cuts to fulfill its functions – it should also be noted that for some time the governing body of INE has been promoting a narrative of confrontation with the Executive, falling into the game that the President dominates perfectly and does not correspond to Statistics Portugal, nor does it favor it.
If it continues on this path, the consequences of polarization in the electoral arena may raise doubts about the representativeness and legitimacy of the winners, as well as the emergence of an unfair opposition that generates difficulties in reaching the necessary consensus to govern.
Last but not least, peaceful and civilized social coexistence could be altered in the face of simplifying views that divide society into “good” and “bad”.
Translation of Maria Isabel Santos Lima