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A Morena Activist Analyzes the Midterms

from the June 16, 2021 Bulletin

Morena social movements electoral politics

Pedro Gellert, a veteran left journalist and translator, has been an active Morena rank-and-filer in México City since before the party became “Morena”! He brings a wide-ranging perspective to his analyses of Mexican politics.


The June 6 elections marked the midpoint of AMLO’s six-year, term-limited presidency, with all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies up for grabs. How did Morena do?


Morena did not meet its goal of getting a two-thirds majority of congressional deputies, the number needed to enact constitutional reforms. But the percentage of those voting for Morena stayed basically the same as in 2018. Despite the pandemic and its effect on the economy, support for the Fourth Transformation — Morena’s project to radically transform Mexican society — remains strong.


So why did we lose seats? This year, the right-wing PAN, the neoliberal PRI, and the lost-sheep PRD banded together and put up single candidates, rather than each party running its own candidates as in the past. Morena also had its own coalition, but the other two parties, the Workers and Green Parties, only each account for 3 percent of the vote. If this election had been a street fight, it would been like Morena taking on three attackers at once. And we still won a clear majority.


Did the June 6 elections bring greater diversity among the deputies?


The INE, México’s National Electoral Institute, instituted affirmative action rules requiring that every party run a certain number of women, LGBTQ, black, disabled, migrant, and indigenous candidates. But, no big surprise, white men tried to take over the few spots not available to white men by claiming gay or indigenous status. In one case, a man who claimed to be bisexual was — what’s the opposite of “outed?!” — by members of the LGBTQ community.


Out of 32 states, 15 held elections for governor. What happened?

In 10 states that had PRI or PAN governors the past three years, Morena won, not just in the more progressive south, but in the north as well. Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur all flipped for Morena, a very significant result. Breaking the governors' power mainly their control over state fundswill help break the power of the PRIAN, the anti-Morena coalition.


Given these results, what do you see as the future of the three conservative parties?


The three parties will try to block whatever Morena wants to do. But to simply oppose is not a winning strategy. Even anti-Morena pundits complain that the conservatives do not have an alternative program. Key PRI and PAN figures also face more corruption scandals that will keep them in the public eye. This August, a national referendum will decide whether previous presidents should be prosecuted for corruption. AMLO, the anti-corruption crusader, wants a mandate for prosecution from the people.


Any unexpected results on June 6? 


The biggest surprise and upset — came in México City, a long-time bastion of the left. Progressives hadn’t lost an election there since 1997. The current mayor, Claudia Scheinbaum, was not up for re-election, but Morena lost many important municipal presidencies. The reasons still need sorting out, but the most important that have been pinpointed so far include a complacency that we would automatically win, the poor performance of elected representatives in office, and the effects of the constant media campaign attacking Morena, AMLO, and the “4T,” the Fourth Transformation. Other contributing factors included the imposition from above of unpopular Morena candidates, the near collapse of Morena as an organization beyond its electoral focus, and the voter disenchantment that incumbents almost always face.


What are Morena’s political priorities for the second half of AMLO’s term going to be?


One key goal will be to change the Constitution to codify AMLO’s social programs and put Mexico’s energy resources under national control. Morena also wants programs such as the payment of stipends to seniors made irreversible” and for universal free health care to be constitutionally enshrined. The courts have recently ruled against many key Morena reforms, and, without a constitutional change, we can’t guarantee the reforms that have already been enacted.


Morena will try to negotiate with some PRI and Citizens’ Movement legislators to get the needed two-thirds majority, but I’m pessimistic. In México, congressional deputies don’t represent their districts. They vote their party line. It’s going to take more than skillful negotiating. It’s going to take a popular mobilization.


That brings us to Morena, the party.  What must happen now within the party?


Morena, as an organization, stands in shambles. It has evolved from a social movement to a party/movement to a party. The party did not run the June 6 elections on a grassroots basis. It didn’t mobilize rank-and-file members and that generated considerable discontent in the ranks. With the elections now over, it’s imperative for Morena to get its house in order. But doing so might be complicated given the absence of concrete mechanisms to ensure an open democratic debate and decision making within the party. 


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