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Politics and Promises

January 14, 2007


On Tuesday, January 9, the Supreme Court of Mexico decided that the Oaxaca state legislature could not vote itself an extra year in office. Given this denial of “self-prorogation”, the “ordinary” elections for state legislators will be held the first Sunday in August of 2007 . The newly elected legislators will take office on November 13, for a three year term.

      Mexican elections are done in a double way; that is, there is a direct majority vote, plus there is a proportional vote, for which the political parties maintain a list of available people who are then assigned posts according to the number of votes their party gains. A legislator need not live in the area s/he represents.  To that, add the fact that the majority of Oaxaca communities vote without any political parties (usos y costumbres), but somehow their non-affiliated representatives must be attributed to a party in order to take their seats.

      Regarding the municipal elections, for those elected by political party it takes place on the first Sunday in October, and those elected assume office January 1, 2008, for a three year term. For city officials elected by the local usos y costumbres, each town  elects where and when they choose, but their officials also assume office January 1, 2008.  These officials serve under the norms of their local municipalities, but their service in office must not exceed three years.

OK, hold that thought.

      Now remember that the federal Senate was asked several times to vote for the “disappearance of powers” necessary to throw out Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) as governor of Oaxaca. The Senate declined to do so, although they declared that the state was ungovernable, and hence needed federal intervention. This direct contradiction, that Oaxaca was not ungovernable (which would require destitution of powers) and was ungovernable (requiring federal intervention) led to the impasse temporarily resolved in the attack by the Federal Preventative Police, which the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Oaxaca citizens endured on November 25. The impasse continues despite the repression which followed.

      Prior to the federal intervention, a similar request for a declaration of “disappearance of powers” was presented by the APPO to the Oaxaca state legislature, which like the federal Congress,  is controlled by the PRI and the PAN. Not surprisingly, although they were forced from their buildings by the APPO, and felt obliged to meet secretly in restaurants and hotels, the legislators did not vote that the state was ungovernable. Indeed, they voted to extend their terms of office, and to choose an interim governor in 2008, which is what the Supreme Court has just invalidated.

      You may also remember that on July 2, 2006, the APPO called for a “punishment” vote in which the PRI was soundly defeated in ten of the eleven federal congressional seats, and of course for president of Mexico. The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) came out way ahead in Oaxaca.

      In the Noticias of January 13, 2007 (page 9A) an ad has appeared signed by the PRD senator Salomon Jara Cruz, addressed to the People of Oaxaca, the State Council of the PRD, and Public Opinion. In it, Jara reminds the voters that it was the PRD along with the Partido Convergencia which brought before the Supreme Court the challenge to the invalid “reforms” which the local congress voted “behind the backs of the peoples of Oaxaca.”

      With this decision by the Supreme Court, the 2007 electoral process, he reminds us, Oaxaca will choose 42 local deputies, 152 Municipal Presidents  by the system of parties, and 418 Municipal Authorities by the system of usos y costumbres.

      The PRD is betting that in these elections it will gain 25 electoral Districts and thus the majority in the state Congress. So it will then (then being November of  2007) be able to carry out, “jointly with the peoples of  Oaxaca the constitutional, political, economic, juridical, cultural and institutional transformations that the state needs, such as achieving through the congress the yearning of the Oaxaqueños, the departure of Ulises Ruiz as governor of Oaxaca.” (emphasis added)

Now how often do we see a campaign promise like that!

      Jara goes on to say in his ad that the PRD alone can’t gain this outcome. The success will depend on “our capacity to build a grand alliance, plural and inclusive”, with society and our natural party allies, plus political and  economic organizations of civil society, peoples and indigenous communities, intellectuals and academics. If this cast of participants sounds familiar, it’s because it is a roll call of the APPO.

He points out that URO will try to divide the opposition, and especially each of the components of the broad progressive front, Frente Amplio Progresista.

      The ad concludes, “Last July 2 we changed ourselves into the foremost political force of Oaxaca, winning the elections with the help of several fundamental factors, among them the heroic Section 22 teachers movement and the Popular movement represented by the APPO.  Today we are moved to respond with higher sights, contributing to the basic modification of the conditions of life and work for the Oaxaqueños and the strategic part is winning all the elections of 2007.”

      It’s along time until the August elections. If the APPO maintains a presence on the streets without exasperating those who want a “return to normal”,  and retains the affiliation (my personal guess is 85%) of the public who despise URO, it may very well be possible to pull off another “punishment” vote. Destroying the PRI as a political force in Oaxaca may be possible, finally.

      Elections are months away. This advertisement is certainly the most unusual campaign promise I have yet seen. But it’s only January. Jara hasn’t lost a minute in presenting the PRD as another way out of the impasse. The APPO, constructed as a non-political social movement, may achieve its second historic victory, once again changing the electoral landscape in Oaxaca by voting the rascals out.



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