Despite the fact that many were disappointed by the result, Mexico’s election exemplifies a positive step in the democratic progress of a country that just 12 years ago lived the so-called perfect dictatorship, led by a single party (the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI) that was authoritarian and corrupt.
After 12 years of National Action Party (PAN) governments that represented the desire to change, the majority of voters showed they were tired of what was offered and voted for something different. There was a large voter turnout and great enthusiasm in the process. The “I am #132” youth movement, which emerged in opposition to the candidate now projected as the winner, showed there is a strong civic movement that wants more than alternating power and seeks democracy of higher quality and transparency.
The apparent success of Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI’s candidate, does not represent an overwhelming mandate but a call to govern, as he said himself, without returning to the corrupt, authoritarian past of his party. By winning fewer votes than predicted, a divided Congress is expected, and negotiations will be needed in order to govern effectively. Peña Nieto has promised reforms that help reactivate the economy, which he said will be his main focus.
The election process itself has not ended. We hope it finishes without the problems and lack of clarity that plagued the past election. Just like the Federal Electoral Institute is expected to be efficient and transparent, defeated candidates should be ready to accept the results without excuses. In that, they should also show their commitment to democracy.
As far as the likely “new PRI” government, we think Mexican society today is much more alert and informed to be watchful and prevent a return to the dark times of the all-powerful PRI. If Peña Nieto’s win is confirmed, the new president faces huge challenges such as public safety and the economic situation. That is his true mandate.
Other political and civic forces should then take their places to develop an opposition that remains faithful to the country and the image of the Mexico they would like to build.