Absolutism with social recognition and control of the other powers by ordinary faculties that would make Baron Montesquieu blush was privileged abroad.
Mexican presidentialism is historical and unrepeatable outside of the social and political dynamics of Mexico and responds only to circumstances of social and political development from the monarchical model that inherited the Cádiz Constitution of 1812 and that the three Mexican constitutions have assumed to build a pyramidal model of political and systemic functioning.
The Mexican presidential system was consolidated by figures of different political configuration: the dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna, the revered president Benito Juárez and the dictator Porfirio Díaz built the Executive Branch of Mexico over three quarters of a century, from 1833 to 1910; and the political regime of the PRI that emerged from the Mexican Revolution in 1910 inherited that scheme and has prevailed to date as a presidential-absolutist model with rulers-kings who can only last in power for six years, but who are sustained by a structure of system/regime/state with the quasi-monarchical power of the President of the Republic who can only govern for a six-year term, but which is perpetuated through the systemic structure.
All the opposition politicians of the 20th century in Mexico sought power to change the presidential structure, but none has dared or wanted to do so once they find themselves with presidential power in their hands. President Enrique Peña Nieto came with the vote 32% PRI vote –plus 6 additional points for coalition parties–, but he exercised power as if he had 100% of the votes behind him –or more, as an example of the Mexican systemic absurdity–. The presidents of Mexico who came from the opposition –two from the PAN and the current López Obrador de Morena– have exercised presidential power as if they were a product of the PRI regime.
A truly democratic regime in Mexico will only be possible as long as the opposition political forces present in a program of democratic reconstruction and in power make the decisions in this regard, because until now the three presidents who emerged from the opposition have found conjuncture justifications to avoid their commitments to systemic reorganization and prefer to maintain the pyramidal model of exercising power that strengthened the PRI but which – I repeat – has historical references since the founding of Mexico as an independent Republic.
In the last 3 months, the president of Mexico has faced limited spaces for the exercise of presidential absolutism, but he has found ways and formulas to overcome these conjunctural oppositions. As a presidential system, the Mexican system has very specific practices and rules to exercise the division of powers: the Executive decides, the legislature approves and supervises, and the judiciary oversees compliance with democratic constitutional practices. In reality, however, and as always, things are different: the president overwhelms the other two powers.
The PAN and Morena came to power hand in hand with a discourse of democratic and systemic refoundation; but the electoral mechanisms can give victory, although they do not usually give up power and that is where the moles of presidential absolutist authoritarianism undermine the territories of democratic debate. At the end of the six-year term, the presidents with opposition flags end up being more PRI supporters than PRI supporters and paradoxically, the presidents who emerged from the PRI have been more open to democratic spaces than the opposition.
President López Obrador’s model of unitary presidentialism has not yet been explained abroad: the president exercises power every morning for three hours at a press conference, and then the government moves based on what is said in those informal meetings without existing no interrelation of the intermediate levels of power, since everything is centralized in the presidential sayings and not in the management of the Government. In fact, everything is decided exclusively by the President of the Republic and the cabinet secretaries have modestly assumed their role that the laws characterize as “secretaries of the presidential office”, although many of them act as non-existent ministers of state.
A recent incident has proven the resistance capacity of the presidential system: during the presentation of a report by the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection of the presidential cabinet, two senators from the opposition delivered aggressive and loud speeches against the general-secretary in charge of the Defense portfolio. National, an unseen fact; however, everything remained a rhetorical incident because it did not modify the absolutist power relations of the Executive over the legislature; that is, it did not provoke any new real redefinition of the exercise of power. In one of the well-known films of the actress María Félix, she appears as a revolutionary leader in command of a commando that is fighting against the regular forces and suddenly her ammunition runs out and one of the soldiers tells her boss that they no longer have with which to kill the enemies and the commander tells them: “well, lie to them the mother (an insult to the Mexican) that also hurts them”.
This metaphor can illustrate the current situation of an impotent opposition in its disorganization and number, and a powerful majority every six years that imposes its rules of the game and where the opposition insults to cause pain to the adversary, although without modifying the rules of the top-down game of Mexican presidentialism.
The pessimistic scenario of Mexico is in sight: if it comes to power again, the opposition today is the same one that could not or did not want to or was not allowed to modify the architecture of the absolutist-presidential state of Mexico and therefore there is no optimism that things can change.
The content of this column is the sole responsibility of the columnist and not the newspaper that publishes it.