By Ciro Di Costanzo (for Safe Democracy)

Ciro Di Costanzo analyzes the political and social panorama in Mexico upon the electoral victory of Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN). In Di Costanzo‘s opinion, the minute difference in votes that allowed Calderon to win will present some important political and social challenges for his presidency, and Calderon should be sure to incorporate some of the causes of the PRD and his opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador into his government. If Calderon champions certain leftist policies, like the creation of viable economic development, and the fight against poverty, he will unite his government, make way for national reconciliation, and ensure that Mexico does not fall once again into the stagnation and immobility that characterized President Vicente Fox‘s time in office.

Ciro Di Costanzo is a journalist and an analyst of international politics. He is the head of one of the most important radio shows in Mexico (Reporte 98.5 FM, now in its third season of broadcasting) and is a Professor of Communication and International Politics at the Universidad Iberoamericana. He has covered events worldwide and is the founder of the Mexican Counsel of International Affairs. He gives talks at the principal universities of his country and around the world.

WITH THE FINAL RULING OF MEXICO’S ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL, the federal electoral process of 2006 has ended, granting victory to Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN).

Written in among the judicial technicalities of the 309-page, definitive, inalterable sentence of the Tribunal is the fact that the seven judges unanimously consider the results of the partial recount to reinforce the preliminary results of the election. From a lead of .58 percent of the votes in the first count, to a difference of .56 percent in the second, which the Federal Electoral Institute reported on July 2nd, Felipe Calderon beat out Leftist Candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by 233,000 votes.

Yet, despite the official end to the electoral process, the minute difference in votes in a country of 42 million voters will raise some important political and social challenges for Mexico and its institutions.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador proclaimed this anti-institutional statement before thousands of his supporters who are staging a sit-in in the largest public square of the country. But it is exactly this anti-institutional ideology that has had negative effects on Mexican government and has paralyzed the Mexican system. By using the old revolutionary rhetoric from the 1970’s when the whole democratic institutional model was up for debate, Obrador has hardened his discourse in the face of defeat.

But the radical leftists seem to be the only ones who feel sympathy for the losing candidate. Those more moderate followers of the PRD have realized that if a democracy does not follow common rules and base itself in institutions and in a state of law, then that democracy will turn to chaos.

And now that the judicial ruling has established the legitimacy of the elections and definitively recognized Calderon as the new President, the PRD is on the edge of the law. Its actions contradict its very existence as a political party. After years of building up power, and electing Deputies, Senators, and Governors throughout the country, the PRD, the second strongest political force in the nation, risks to throw all of its democratic accomplishments away by making a mockery of the rule of law.

This is the dilemma that the party is facing; whether to use the strength and authority that it has gained through the democratic system to make its causes reality, presenting itself as a responsible and viable party to govern, or whether to destroy the work that it has built up over years, fracture the party, and create a public image of violence and anti-institutionalism.


One of the historic mistakes that the Mexican left has committed has been to hang onto certain leaders, who, once in power, will confront their own cannibalistic, self-destructive tribe to be sure that they don’t miss the opportunity to miss the opportunity.

But for Calderon, the challenges may be even greater. Having won the Presidency with less than 35 percent of the votes does not give him a blank check to do what he pleases. And added onto the difficulty of governing with a minority, is the complexity of leading a country in which the radicalized second largest political party has chosen to boycott the army and the newly elected President.

The main challenge for Calderon, therefore, will be beating out Lopez Obrador on the left, which is to say, giving absolute priority to the fight against poverty on all levels.

The problem is not that Lopez Obrador wants to become the leader, but rather that what he represents carries significant weight. Huge parts of the population have been excluded from progress and development and, as a result, do not believe in the institutions of democracy.

Calderon must take up the causes of the PRD, therefore, giving them economic viability, attracting investment to make better jobs, and building agreements between all of the political parties in order to reach a national reconciliation and help the Mexican economy grow. But in order to achieve any of this, Calderon must also see if he can push through political reforms that will allow him to arrive at decisions in the middle of a divided Parliament, and allow future governments to be able to maneuver politically.

The fight against poverty, national reconciliation, and the creation of a better economy, along with the fight against organized and unorganized delinquency, constitute the path that the new administration must take, with its left foot forward.

If not, Mexico will fall back into the stagnation and immobility that characterized the presidency of Vicente Fox.

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