Only the faces have changed in Mexico
On Sunday night, 2 July, it was announced that Vicente Fox, the National Action Party (PAN) candidate, would be the next president of Mexico, thus ending 71 years of ppower by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). PAN secured approximately 42% of the votes, the PRI came in second with around 36%, while 16% of the votes went to the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Almost 65% of the population registered to vote participated.
For the first time, the PRI will now have to transfer power to another party, albeit another right-wing party. Current Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo publicly admitted defeat and offered to cooperate with his successor. The transition period will last five months. From now to 1 December, PRI and PAN will have to work together in order, they declared, to make possible a peaceful clear and clean transfer of power.
PAN had the backing of the traditional sectors of the Catholic Chirch and of big national and international economic corporations.
Moreover, most Mexicans were really fed up with the PRI. The strategic use of second preferences by PRD and other minority party supporters also told against the PRI. PAN wanted the PRD to join them in order to defeat the PRI but the PRD refused to sell out its political principles for a small piece of power.
Vicente Fox also made good use of the mass media. As ex-director of marketing for Coca-Cola, Fox knew perfectly the importance of being seen on the screen.
The United States' first preference was Fox, although they would also have been happy with a PRI victory. Outside PAN's pro-Catholic leanings, the ideological differences between the PRI and PAN are minimal. It seems that Fox has stronger links with the big international economic and financial groups where, in his own words, ``reside the nerves of political power''. Continuing the privatisation of national strategic resources and maintaining the flow of international capital to Mexico are the main issues on the PAN agenda for the next six years.
PAN's victory suits the US and the other international centres of power. According to a study by the national newspaper La Jornada, Wsahington spent around $1 million on electoral observation in Mexico. The US State Department said that their object was ``to support democracy in the continent and all round the world''. But as Noam Chomsky, well-known linguist and critic of US politics, stated in an interview published in La Jornada on 27 June:
``It's the main interest of the world power centers - the US and the transnational company sector - to have an election like the Mexican one, transparent and correct, precisely to hide the existence of the `companies' dictatorship', not only in Mexico but also in the US and other parts of the world.''
International and national electoral observers; the advent of new institutions, specifically the Federal Electoral Institute, which worked hard to avoid electoral fraud; new technologies, which helped to count the votes more quickly; and the PRI's peaceful and rapid acceptance of the defeat made possible the celebration of the cleanest and most transparent elections in Mexico's history. But democracy is not just about elections and putting a piece of paper in a box every six years after being subjected to electoral propaganda for six months.
According to the Mexican Academy for Human Rights, the Mexican elections are the most expensive in the world. The rule is, the more you spend, the more votes you win. That's not democracy. Democracy is about the real participation of the people in political decision making.
In the current situation there is no possibility of a democratic project in Mexico without a new economic model. The change of the party in power means, in this context, continuity.
BY CRISTINA RIBA