El Universal’s lead story today, under the headline “PRI and PVEM recruiting chapulines en el DF,” tells all you need to know about why these 2015 mid-term elections have generated more than the usual dose of cynicism.
Voters are convinced it doesn’t matter which party wins. The candidates seem to agree.
First a review of the headline’s cast of characters, for readers sensible enough to have a life beyond Mexican politics.
The PRI is President Enrique Peña Nieto’s party in power, which also has the largest blocs in both houses of Congress. There are still traces of authoritarianism in its DNA.
The PVEM is the so-called Green Party, allied with the PRI. Both the PRI and the PVEM place pragmatism over ideology — not in the Obama sense of a preferred way to run a country, but as a means to hold onto power.
The DF is the Federal District, Mexico City’s political entity. Like just about everything else, it was run by the PRI for most of the 20th century.
But when the political positions became elected rather than appointed in 1997, the left-of-center PRD took over. It has held the city legislature majority, the mayorship and most of the borough chief slots ever since.
The PRI, however, is hoping to regain some ground on June 7, when all the city’s elective posts are at stake, save the mayor. That hope is based on the plummeting public image of the PRD, its increasingly nasty internal spats, and a new split on the left occasioned by Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s creation of the Morena party, which is going all in on the DF elections.
Enter the “chapulines.”
It’s a Náhuatl-based word for grasshoppers, applied this election season to pols bailing from their elected positions so they can run for another one — i.e. borough chiefs (delegados) resigning early to run for a seat in the city legislature.
Here, though, it refers to those making a late switch of party loyalty in order to grab a candidacy. El Universal’s story runs down several examples in the current election cycle in the DF, all of them migrating to the PRI from points both leftward and rightward.
Now, party-hopping is nothing new, and it’s not always mercenary. Many who bolted from the PRI in the early 1990s during the formation of the PRD, or from the PRD itself in the last year or two, can claim (not always credibly) to have acted on principle.
But what we’re talking about now is blatantly self-serving opportunism, and it confirms every suspicion would-be voters have about the true motives of those seeking public office. This isn’t an election; it’s a jobs fair.
For example, there’s Laura Ballesteros, who left the National Action Party to become a PRI candidate to head the Miguel Hidalgo borough. The PAN was founded in the 1930s as the anti-PRI from the right — pro-Church to the PRI’s laicism, pro-business to the PRI’s professed (at the time) proletarianism. The two have lately come closer together, true, but does that mean Ms. Ballesteros saw the light? More likely she saw the available candidacy.
The article names several PRD members who have come over to the PRI when offered a candidacy. They all ooze hypocrisy, and none admits that a chance to get elected is more important to them than standing for something.
Instead, we get the likes of former PRD Deputy Fernando Zarate rationalizing his city legislature candidacy with the PRI as a move “to regain the DF with the ideals of Colosio.” The reference is to assassinated 1994 PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, and it’s a lot like Nancy Pelosi deciding to run for governor of California on the GOP ticket because it’s the party of Lincoln.
Polimnia Romana, a former perredista of the AMLO strain, doesn’t even try to make sense in her justification for going over: “The PRI and the Greens have recognized their mistakes and are correcting them, going with new faces and new ways to practice politics.”
In other words, she’s counting on voters not having paid attention lately.
We probably shouldn’t single out this particular lump of dissemblers. Nor the PRI for its shameless manipulation. The sham candidacies are — as Marlon Brando’s Godfather might say with a slight wave of his hand — just the way it’s done.
Which leaves us in a situation where the masses seek reform while their candidates seek the personal perks of power — and don’t pretend otherwise. Voter apathy, for once, seems almost like a healthy response.