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Left turn in Mexico

Editorial |

The country with the second largest Latin American economy has demonstrated that there may be hope yet for the Left. The landslide victory in Mexico of the Left-wing leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador ~ generally known by the convenient acronym Amlo ~ comes in the midst of endemic corruption and no less acute poverty and violence.

Sunday’s presidential election yielded a vote for change and hope in place of the canker of continuity. His spectacular triumph can in large measure be attributed to his offer to effect a bout of resurgence, and no less crucially to the general anxiety to effectively countenance the anti-Mexican bullying by the likes of Donald Trump.

Yet another factor that appears to have tilted the scales in Lopez Obrador’s favour is economic, specifically the free market approach that his opponents have pursued since the mid-1980s. The policy has backfired, to say the least. Close to 30 years later, it has failed to ensure growth, let alone alleviated poverty.

The Mexican government’s policies never quite responded to problems, relegating the country to the ranks of the also-rans. Ergo, Mr Obrador will succeed to a depleted inheritance and the challenge to the self-styled “Left-wing outsider” is forbidding. He has won the country’s presidency after two failed attempts. It is one thing to win an election; governance is a different proposition altogether.

Given the complexities of Mexican politics, his new party is unlikely to win a two-third majority in Congress (the national legislature) ~ the fountain-head of major constitutional reforms. In course of his campaign, he had promised to sell the presidential planes, turn the presidential palace into a public park, and to halve his salary. Should the agenda attain fruition, it will signify a paradigm shift in terms of governance.

In his victory speech, Mr Obrador has neither trumpeted his election nor debunked his political opponents. Critically enough, he has signalled his intent to shift away from the ineffective militarised response to drug cartels. Yet it shall not be easy to enforce the rule of law in a country where murders are said to have reached the level of an armed conflict.

In economic policy, the new President has let it be known that he views Mr Trump’s Nafta negotiations as an opportunity rather than a calamity. Given its natural resources, it is amazing that Mexico imports a huge quantity of US food produce.

Mr Obrador would rather that Mexico is independent on the food front, but it may be a while before the road ahead is firmed up in a country that has survived economic and democratic crises. A new edition of Mexican democracy ~ helmed by a Leftist ~ is on test. Mr Obrador is acutely aware that the problems are daunting. The disenchantment of the people is reflected in the robust rejection of the status quo.