Sunday, September 16, 2012

On AMLO's departure from the PRD

I'd like to share a few thoughts on the biggest story on the Mexican left these days.

AMLO's departure from the PRD, long in the making, is clearly dramatic for the Mexican left: Any two-time presidential candidate leaving his or her party would be noteworthy in itself, but even more so as AMLO is clearly bent on creating a new, utterly personal party, with which he of course intends to go for 2018 in a third run adn thus compete with the party he was once a founding member of, the PRD. A third presidential run is of course hardly unheard of: Lula ran four times before winning, and so did Salvador Allende in Chile, though notably both were men of their parties, and above all respected the institutional framework within which they were competing. Did any of them ever falsely claim fraud or to have won, without a shred of evidence, proclaim themselves "legitimate" presidents, or reject the democratic institutions of their country, be it elections, electoral courts, or the supreme court?

But there is a larger point to be made, regarding converting AMLO's Morena movement into a party. His spokespersons, and AMLO himself, reiterate that there will in the next months be "consultations" with the base regarding turning Morena into a party or not. It is hard to take this too seriously: For one, "consultations" AMLO-style is text-book plebescitarian, "asking" his followers whether they agree with a decision he has taken long ago. A personal observation: I recall vividly being at the Zócalo in 2011 at the rally where AMLO, as he later claimed, "asked" his followers to go for the 2012 nomination or not, and it was anything but a consultation ("Are we going for 2012? Yeeees... Louder, are we going for 2012? YEEEEES....!). Second, I have little doubt that AMLO wants to turn Morena into a party. He has announced he will hold, from Oct. 10 to Nov. 11, 32 state congresses, and then one national congress Nov. 19-20. What's the hurry? Quite obvious: In order to be allowed to run on the new party's label in 2018, according to the reformed Mexican electoral code, it will need to have been officially formed by this fall.

It is worth stopping to ponder how utterly personalistic AMLO's project is, as there simply has been nothing like this happening on the left in modern times. While Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas contemplated leaving the PRD when he lost the 2006 nomination to AMLO, he in the end did not. Yet AMLO, despite having been PRD's candidate in 2006 and 2012, knows he will not get the candidacy a third time, and therefore has finally split from his old party, like he in turn bolted from the PRI when he failed to get its nomination to be governor of Tabasco. All the "PRI has lost its way, therefore I leave" rhetoric even from that time must be countered with a heavy dose of cynicism: AMLO, like so many others, left the PRI because it did not fit with his personal ambitions.

His decision to form a new party makes it again fully clear how AMLO cares about one project: His own. Elsewhere, in other parties, candidates will fight over positions and some will of course bolt their own party, but on the political left, most nonetheless agree that the party - that is, the project of the party, its political program and plans of action - is far more important than the ambitions of just one man. If AMLO truly cared about any political project beyond his own, he would of course concentrate on using his political capital to strengthen a broader political project with a chance of winning in 2018, with a goal to implement a progressive agenda and not to insist that only AMLO would be capable of doing this. But as these events make abundantly clear, he has no interest in any project that is not led by himself. It is either utterly egoistic, wholly messianic, or both: "No one but me can bring about the change, no one!"

And when his party suggested it would not follow his commands without objection - such as not accepting the election victory of Enrique Peña Nieto, which Morena has declared it will never do - then rather than bending to the party's will, AMLO has finally taken the logical step: If you can't control it, leave it.

His decision will cause enormous turmoil and fluidity on the Mexican left and likely hurt it greatly in the short term, such as upcoming state contests and the 2015 midterms. There is of course also the danger that the  that the left will split in 2018, should AMLO break his earlier promise not to run (he said in 2011 that 2012 would be his last, "out of dignity," and also, as laughable as it appears now, some also believed him when he declared he would retire should he lose this summer). Nonetheless, in the long run, I think AMLO's departure from the PRD, as Marcelo Ebrard characterized it, was not only "predictable and logical," but will also in the end be positive for the Mexican left. As PRD president Zambrano noted, "The PRD is an institution that is much strong than persons and personalities." That includes Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Creará AMLO partido; deja frente de izquierda. El Universal, Sept. 10, 2012
Es incongruente, afirman PAN y PRI. El Universal, Sept. 10, 2012
AMLO: sin ruptura, dejo el Movimiento Ciudadano. La Jornada, Sept. 10, 2012
Mensaje íntegro de Andrés Manuel López Obrador en el Zócalo. La Jornada, Sept. 10, 2012
AMLO pone en dilema a la izquierda. El Universal, Sept. 11, 2012
Pide Ebrard crear frente de oposición. El Universal, Sept. 14, 2012
Zambrano descarta “fuga” de militantes. El Universal, Sept. 11, 2012
Salida de AMLO no es una sorpresa: NI. El Universal, Sept. 14, 2012

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