Mexico is widely regarded as a democratic state in constant disarray. Though it has been historically a pluralist system, it hasn’t quite harnessed a party based beneficiary of the people. It’s latest elections, swept fair and square by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a new wave of anti-corruption was promised for a weary Mexico. Through what he coins, “Mexico’s Fourth Revolution”, Lopez Obrador claimed to break the mold of the political gridlock. His main aims were to strengthen the arm of law against the overwhelming hand of organized crime in Mexican cities, which had proved to be ineffective and often non-existent in previous administrations.
The first red flag that appears as a result of Lopez Obrador’s promises, even before any comment is made about his presidency, is his rise to prominence. His campaign promises fuel much worry and angst about his drive for power, amassing to a populist ideal that may not be attainable without suspending democratic checks and balances. While touting himself as beyond party temptations, Lopez Obrador has shown his strong arm in a bypass of legislation in his early presidency as he enacted martial law in Acapulco to battle cells of organized crime. His removal of those troops didn’t subside easily., as he proclaimed the police were not doing enough. The bypass put worry in peoples minds that this could be a recurring theme for other issues, perhaps even organized protest against AMLO.
People are also weary of his hyperbole based campaign promises that are coming into perspective as not feasible. His spending plans to recreate the judicial system and local law enforcement boost both were put on hold as Lopez Obrador came to power, displaying the vice-like grips of the bureaucratic Mexican economic downturn of 2018. Declining oil production prompted Obrador to propose flooding money into the industry, but to no avail. Obrador cited the stimulus would take much longer than expected, creating massive disappointment in his supporter base. His massive spending promises have been marred by the reality of failing Mexican export markets, something he paid little attention to when running. The social security program is also in jeopardy, with the fate of pensions for government workers being pushed back as an issue of concern for the president. Obrador’s expensive airport project promises were also changed abruptly as he announced the project would be decided by way of public vote rather than a specific legislative body. The vote went to less than 2% of the population as well which heavily angered supporters and non-supporters alike.
Obrador’s rise is essentially a populist ascension to a position he was ill prepared for, and certainly one that didn’t serve his constituents. The democratic backsliding occurring is not that a guardrail is failing, but rather that a populist leader is making his false promises a norm for his citizens in an early administration. This is often displayed in a populist regime, but never a candidate intertwined with a big name party movement. Obrador’s power is being questioned as he continues to show signs of both promise and further uneasiness.