Will Mexico’s president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, succeed in reforming politics in that tragic country? Not if past history is any guide. FT international affairs editor David Gardner reminds us that although the 1988 election was “almost certainly won” by the leftist Revolutionary Democratic party (PRD), the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was able to impose as president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, “a shrewd young technocrat”. Salinas promised radical reforms, but delivered continued corruption and poor governance. Peña Nieto is also a candidate of the PRI, but without the technical skills of President Salinas. Moreover, he “is the scion of a clan of rich and powerful old guard [PRI] barons, none of them renowned for their modernity”.
Just like Mr Salinas, he [Peña Nieto] says his government will also be all about modernisation and reform. ….
One sure sign of change would be if not only the new president and the PRI but also the other parties united to strike down the historic ban on re-electing deputies and senators, which reinforces this baronial grip [on Congress]. Since they only serve one term, they cannot hold the executive to account, nor can their voters reward or punish them. Only their political bosses can do that.
President-elect Peña Nieto, assuming he survives the legal challenge to his victory, is walking into a political minefield, watched by the paladins of PRI-ismo past who will seek to guide him, as they did the Salinas team. The linchpin of that team, José Córdoba, defended the need for such alliances just before his boss took office. “You can’t just walk in with five friends and take over a system as complex as Mexico’s”, he told the Financial Times in 1988. Six years later the dinosaurs had gobbled them up.
David Gardner, “Mexico’s new star needs teeth to face the dinosaurs“, Financial Times, 17 July 2012.