MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican left’s most visible figure and former presidential candidate, has announced that he will leave politics altogether if he is not victorious in the 2018 presidential election.
“If it unfortunately goes badly for me and my party in 2018, I will continue to plant ideas just as I do with plants until I die but I will not be a candidate for any political position,” López Obrador said in an interview with Mexico City-based daily Reforma.
In September of 2012, López Obrador renounced his membership in the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the party he once led. Shortly after, he announced that he formed the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena) or National Regeneration Movement, a socialdemocratic party.
López Obrador was angered and disillusioned, as were other members of the PRD, with the fact that the party had signed center-right President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Pact for Mexico, a political agreement aimed at reforming several aspects of Mexican politics, education and the economy through public policy changes.
The Pact for Mexico was signed by Peña Nieto himself and the then-heads of the PRD (Jesús Zambrano Grijalva), Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI – Cristina Díaz), the conservative National Action Party (PAN – Gustavo Madero Muñoz) and later, the Green Party as a whole.
Peña Nieto’s plan to change the status quo was already being observed carefully due to his party’s notoriously corrupt history. As he faced further backlash due to his planned reforms, he lured the Greens and the PRD to sign his Pact for Mexico by promising to devote more of the federal budget to public services. Furthermore, he said that he would raise taxes on the rich and close tax loopholes.
Peña Nieto’s hopes that the moves would quiet, at least temporarily, some of the left-wing opposition to his reform proposals, came to fruition as both the Green Party and the PRD signed on. Unions were busted in the public education sector, which was also overhauled, while laws were introduced that were designed to break up the monopoly in the country on the television, telephone and internet industries. The president received some support from opposition parties in passing these two pieces of legislation, two of his pre-presidential term goals.
However, Peña Nieto’s plan to overhaul PEMEX, the national oil company, was the tipping point and was vehemently criticized and rejected by many dissenting voices within the PRD. The most notable of these voices was López Obrador, who aggressively protested the education and PEMEX reform laws by leading over 100,000 demonstrators down the streets of Mexico City. To his dismay, the reform laws were passed and ratified as both houses of Congress are dominated by PRI and PAN.
Due to López Obrador’s stark ideological objections to the Pact for Mexico and prior disagreements within the PRD, he definitively left the party that he led from 1996 to 1999 after they agreed to sign the Pact, taking a good number of his party colleagues with him.
His links to the PRD run even deeper beside his membership since its inception; he represented the party as Mayor of the Federal District (Mexico City) from 2000 to 2005 and was their presidential candidate twice, narrowly losing both the 2006 and 2012 contests amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud.
As the PRD continues to face criticism for its alliance with the PRI and PAN as well as for the apparent change in its ideology, its membership has begun to dwindle, votes have been reduced and party members have defected including Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, one of the founders of the PRD and the spiritual leader of the party.
In contrast, López Obrador Morena has been on the rise and in its first election in June of 2015, it took a big bite out of the PRD’s hegemony in Mexico City, the latter’s birthplace and historical stronghold where the PRD had held an absolute majority in the legislative assembly since 1997 when the capital, formerly known as the Federal District, gained political autonomy from the federal government.
In the June 2015 elections, however, Morena made quite an impact as the party won five municipalities (including several of the most important) to the PRD’s six. In the overall popular vote, the PRD won 19.8 percent while Morena established itself as the more popular choice with 23.5 percent of the popular vote.
While the PRD still outperformed Morena nationwide (10.8 percent to 8.4 percent), the newcomer’s performance in the all-important and influential capital and its solid showing nationally is a bad sign for the PRD, especially considering that the aforementioned 10.8 percent nationwide vote was the party’s second-worst performance in history after their first official election in 1991. In addition, their representation in the Chamber of Deputies dropped from 104 to 60 seats while Morena won 36 in its first race.
The demise of the PRD, combined with the ever-falling approval rate of Peña Nieto and his PRI, means that López Obrador is looking like a strong choice again for the presidency given his socialdemocratic policies (in a country with rampant inequality and a lagging economy) and his strong anti-corruption rhetoric that has not been tainted with scandal, unlike many other Mexican politicians.
“If the Mexican people decide to vote for a deep and profound change and put their confidence in me, then I will head to my quinta (ranch) La Chingada as I do now, from time to time. However, if the majority says they do not want me to govern or if the mafia of political power stops us, then I will go La Chingada forever and take refuge in that wonderful place,” López Obrador said this week.
Speaking in a content tone, López Obrador spoke of the various fruits and vegetables he has planted at his ranch in the southern state of Chiapas, along with a pathway of flowers dedicated to his wife Beatriz and an area where a variety of fauna congregate.
Despite his happy description of the bucolic lifestyle that awaits him in case of a loss, along with continued reading, writing and teaching of political science, López Obrador is fully committed to winning the presidency and said that he will work “with every ounce” of his being to achieve the goal of becoming the head of state that will “continue the fight for justice and authentic democracy.”