Out of context and specific situation, I’ve always thought that revoking the president’s mandate is not a good idea. In presidential systems, stability in the position of the head of the executive branch—who, in those systems, is the head of state and head of government—is one of the few institutional advantages over parliamentary systems. Knowing how long the government will last, and therefore, when it ends, injects stability into the political life of the state and provides certainty to society. Another thing is to discuss how long states should last and whether or not governors should have the possibility to be reelected. But boycotting the government beforehand through the ballot box never convinced me.
It is true that it is one of the symbols of the so-called “direct democracy” and that it is popular in sectors that oppose the rules and norms of “representative democracy”. It is also true that today the Constitution provides for it, and to this extent it constitutes a right of the citizen. So, regardless of theoretical or political objections, from a legal perspective, in Mexico today it is legitimate and viable. In fact, the activation procedure, the participation ratios for the injection of validity and the vote necessary for the outcome to be binding, are constitutional procedures. So in 2022, the first exercise of this kind could be held in modern Mexico. I do not recommend it for the following reasons.
In my opinion, wherever you look, exercise is a poisoned apple. We have emerged from successful midterm elections that have spawned new engagements of forces across the country. Its results determine the possible and expected prospects for the national political future in the medium term. Citizens participated and the electoral authority was fully approved despite government attempts to discredit it. These are the best assets of our democracy. Attempting to de-authorize – whether successful or unsuccessful for the cause of its promoters – can have detrimental effects on both poles. Interpretations about what percentages of citizen participation mean will inevitably be biased in favor of the parties and the risk of the electoral authority again being pressured will be very high.
They are also mechanisms that contribute to the polarization that does so much harm to societies. I’ve often heard that basic polarization – which comes from poverty, inequality, and exclusion – has been around for a long time and that the only thing that has changed is that it has gained expression in the voice of government and its supporters and has gotten a response from its opponents. It may be true, but it is also true, that this expression has undermined the prospects for a public debate concerned with national problems—enormous—and constructive in its outcome. The practice of canceling mandate would further disturb morale.
In this sense, it is also appropriate that the exercise revolves around the personality of the president. This will not only aggravate our presidential system, but will result in a democratic conflict in which presidential elections coincide with other elections, in particular legislative elections. It is true that the process of no-confidence is not equivalent to electing the head of the executive authority, but it focuses on it. This is at the expense of the leading role that parliaments (in our case, the Congress of the Union) must play in a democracy.
So the promoters of the initiative, predictably excited by the goal of calling the president, might end up promoting him. And I’m not necessarily referring to the current president, but I’m referring to the presidential figure as a democratic and potentially authoritarian unilateralist.
As if that were not enough – in my opinion – an inauspicious precedent will be set. Henceforth, future governments will be condemned to submit to the customs of abolition. For those of us who think the shape itself is a bad idea, this possibility raises concerns. Instead of completing the democratic routine of its cycles and checking the regularity that stability requires, we will live under the anxiety of uncertain terms of government and frequent elections. Every three years opposing the occasion will want to revoke the governors’ mandate in turn.
In short: to leave AMLO in 2024 and whoever we choose will replace him. And if we accompany him with a balanced Congress, what better … an inauspicious precedent. Henceforth, future governments will be condemned to submit to the customs of abolition.