INE denies México Libre’s application to form political party

Margarita Zavala and former President Felipe Calderón. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

09/15/20 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) made waves in early September when it denied the formation of a new political party. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and his wife, Margarita Zavala, had applied to the INE to launch México Libre (or Free Mexico). The INE rejected the application four votes in favor and seven against.  

México Libre

The timing of the INE’s ruling is part of the reason this story has made headlines, not just because of the party’s high-profile leaders. With Mexico’s 2021 mid-term elections less than one year away, the ruling could jeopardize México Libre’s ability to participate. As such, Zavala and Calderón said that they would immediately contest the INE’s decision, elevating their case to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TEPJF).

Reactions to the INE’s Decision

INE President Lorenzo Córdova explained the decision, saying that there were concerns about México Libre’s funding. He specifically pointed to 8.2% of the proposed party’s reported resources, calling it “opaque money.” The INE had previously fined México Libre 2.7 million pesos for what they found to be financial irregularities pertaining to donations received.

Former President Calderón and his partner, Zavala, however, immediately rejected the INE’s decision “You’re lying, Lorenzo Córdova,” tweeted Calderón. “Each and every one of our donors is perfectly identified. You know it, you hid it. It’s a day of shame for you, for INE and for the memory of Arnaldo, who would be ashamed of your decision,” he wrote (translation by Mexico Daily News). Arnaldo is a reference to Córdova’s late father, a well-known academic and former politician. Calderón and Zavala, the latter of whom is actually the leader of México Libre and is also a politician, also clarified that all of México Libre’s donors were identified. This included the individuals in question who collectively donated just over one million pesos to México Libre through the internet platform Clip.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is seen here at his ranch in Chiapas responding through social media to the INE’s decision. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

Still, current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024) applauded the decision, saying it was a “win” for the Mexican people. He also took a jab at Calderón, with whom he has publicly quarreled since being rival presidential candidates in 2006. López Obrador suggested the former president should appeal the INE’s ruling to “his friends” in Washington D.C., a reference to the Organization of American States. He continued, saying that Calderón should lean on those who helped him “steal” the presidency if he wants to do it again. Zavala fired back, saying “With you [as president], democracy loses [and] Mexico loses.”

The Beginnings of México Libre

Zavala initially proposed México Libre’s creation back in January 2019 with the intent of it being a centrist right party. She stressed that it would not be a rebranding of the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the party under which former President Calderón was elected. Rather, México Libre would be a party for the people, for the everyday Mexican – a party that is not an “extreme.” Writes Mexico News Daily, partially quoting Zavala’s explanation, “México Libre is intended to generate political participation and provide an alternative for like-minded individuals to organize, deliberate, and give themselves heart and soul to the reconstruction of Mexico.”

Mexico’s Political System

Mexico’s democracy has quite a few political parties, though it is largely dominated by four: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional , PRI), the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), and the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA). Adding another party, México Libre, to the mix would seemingly add another option to represent the political will of Mexicans. However, democracies are built on far more than just the number of parties in the system. Considering other factors and variables that make up democratic systems, like rule of law, judicial systems, and elections, Mexico is a “flawed democracy,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

A “Flawed Democracy”

The EIU’s annual Democracy Index that was released in January 2020 looked at the state of democracies worldwide in 2019. The report focused on 165 independent states and two territories, categorizing them on their electoral process and pluralism, functioning of the government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The EIU determined that Mexico ranked 73rd on the list of 167 countries with an overall score of 6.09 out of 10.00 (with 10.00 being the ideal democracy). Only three countries – Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Singapore – separated Mexico from being deemed a “hybrid regime.” Mexico’s overall score has steadily declined year after year since 2010, dropping from 6.93 in 2010 to 6.09 in 2019.

The INE hosted a vote on September 4, 2020, on México Libre.

The report defined “flawed democracies” as countries that “have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems…, basic liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” This aligns with the results of the indicators, which showed Mexico scoring the highest on electoral process and pluralism (7.83 out of 10.00) and the lowest on political culture (3.13 out of 10.00).

Democracy in Latin America

Latin America as a whole did not fare much better than Mexico in 2019.  “Latin America was the worst-performing region in 2019,” the EIU reports, “recording a fall of 0.11 points in its average regional score compared with 2018, to 6.13.” Mexico ranked 16th lowest out of 23 countries in the region, scoring only higher than Honduras (5.42 overall score), Guatemala (5.26), Bolivia (4.84), Haiti (4.57), Nicaragua (3.55), Venezuela (2.88), and Cuba (2.84). Only three nations in the region were considered “full democracies” (Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Chile), whereas the majority of the region’s 23 countries are considered “flawed democracies.”

For more information on the Democracy Index, check out the report here.

Sources:

“Zavala descarta que ‘México Libre’ sea el nuevo Morena,” Milenio, January 21, 2019.

“Former candidate, ex-president’s wife unveils new political party,” Mexico News Daily, January 22, 2019.

“Democracy Index 2019: A year of democratic setbacks and popular protests.” The Economist. January 2020.

Web page, “México Libre,” Facebook, Posted August 21, 2020.

Ariadna García, “Revés a Calderón y Zavala: INE niega registro a México Libre,” El Universal, September 4, 2020.

“México Libre: ¿Por qué el INE le negó el registro como partido?” El Financiero, September 5, 2020.

Pedro Villa y Caña and Horacio Jiménez, “Así ha sido el enfrentamiento de AMLO con Zavala y Calderón por México Libre,” El Universal, September 6, 2020.

“Electoral institute rejects new political party over ‘unidentified’ funding,” Mexico News Daily, September 7, 2020.

Discussing Mexican Elections with Dr. Denise Dresser

Dr. Denise Dresser Presents on May 8, 2018

Dr. Denise Dresser presenting at the University of San Diego on May 8, 2018

05/15/18 (written by Lucy La Rosa)- Last week, Justice in Mexico was honored to host Dr. Denise Dresser, a renown Mexican political analyst, columnist and academic, to speak on the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico. The event, “Discussing the 2018 Mexican Presidential Election,” gave a comprehensive snapshot of the context and challenges relevant to Mexico’s presidential candidacy. Held on the USD campus, Dr. Dresser’s presentation was attended by approximately 90 students, professors, government officials, media representatives and members of the general public from the San Diego/Tijuana region.

Dr. Dresser’s work is primarily centered on Mexican democratization, corruption, the construction of citizenship and political economy issues from a comparative perspective. She is a professor of political science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She writes a political column for the Mexican newspaper, Reforma, and Proceso magazine. She also participates in the weekly political roundtable hosted by Carmen Aristegui and the political talk show “Es la Hora de Opinar” hosted by Leo Zuckerman. Dr. Dresser is a winner of the National Journalism Award and was awarded the “Legion of Honor” by the government of France for her work on human rights, freedom of expression and human rights in Mexico. Forbes magazine named her one of the 50 most powerful women in Mexico and one of the most influential people on Twitter. She is the author of the bestselling El País de Uno, reflexiones para entender y cambiar a México. Her forthcoming book, Manifiesto mexicano: cómo perdimos el rumbo y cómo lo recuperamos, will be published in May 2018.

To frame her political analysis of the 2018 presidential elections, Dr. Dresser began by outlining the public sentiments surrounding Mexico’s sitting President, Enrique Peña Nieto, and the impending conclusion of his term. She highlighted the unfavorable ratings of both Peña Nieto and his affiliated Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) due to a variety of tarnishing corruption scandals. Dresser noted that the current political climate features a disgruntled citizenry looking for an end to systemic issues of crony capitalism, rent-seeking elites, corruption and impunity.

Following this frame of reference, she outlined the political background and current opinion poll rankings of the following presidential candidates: Jose Antonio Meade, Ricardo Anaya, Margarita Zavala, and Andres Manuel López Obrador. She probed the intentions and track record of each political candidate, respectively analyzing their party platforms and proposals for change in Mexico. In her thorough appraisal of each candidate, Dr. Dresser emphasized the candidates’ proposed solution to the challenges facing Mexico’s democratic functionality. She specifically underlined candidates’ response to structural issues of corruption and impunity.

Dr. Dresser, in reference to scholar Guillermo Trejo, agreed that regardless of which candidate wins the presidential seat, Mexico needs an “accountability shock.” She highlighted the need for candidates to address the issues perpetuated by an ineffective judicial system and a lacking “institutional design”. Moving forward, she argued, Mexico and its presidential candidates need to focus on strengthening rule of law in Mexico and improving a fight for civil rights. Accordingly, she reasoned that the candidates’ political background and action plan for addressing these challenges should be at the forefront of voters’ judgements on election day.

Bringing her political discourse to a close and in a final reference to Mexico’s need for greater political accountability, Dr. Dresser concluded, “If we don’t look up, those who aspire to govern us won’t do so.”

Dr. Dresser with Justice in Mexico staff

Dr. Dresser with Justice in Mexico staff

The Mexican presidential elections will be held on July 1, 2018. Voters will elect a new president, 128 senators, and 9 governors for 6-year terms, 500 federal deputies, 982 local deputies, 1,612 mayors for 3-year terms and a number of other municipal level positions. Approximately 88 million Mexican will be eligible to cast their vote for a total of 3,416 federal, state and municipal positions, one of the largest elections in Mexican history. For an extensive and intelligible overview of the upcoming elections, electoral processes, candidate and party platforms, Justice in Mexico highly recommends the 2018 Elections Guide by the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute.

Justice in Mexico would like to thank Dr. Denise Dresser for her time and commitment to Mexico’s democratic development, as well as thank all of those who attended and supported the implementation of the event.

 

Please find the archived Facebook Live video here:

Sources:

Mexico Institute’s 2018 Elections Guide. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.