Some lessons against populism 2023/11/13

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If Xóchitl Gálvez wins the presidential elections on June 2, as will surely happen, this will be the third defeat in the West of an authoritarian populist government. The first was that of Joe Biden in November 2020, when he defeated Donald Trump; The second was that of the Law and Justice PiS party, in the elections of October 15 in Poland. The PiS had governed since 2015. The former Minister of Finance (2007-2013) Jacek Rostowski seeks to share with other pro-democracy forces in the world some useful lessons from this significant victory and I extend them to the Mexican case. You can find Rostowski's original article here:

We already know that, in practically all recent cases of authoritarian populist governments, they come to power via democratic elections. Once installed in power, they dedicate themselves to eroding the institutions that allowed them to compete electorally and succeed, lest their adversaries be able to triumph with those same rules. We also know that these governments arrive with the idea of ​​having been designated by HISTORY (in capital letters), destiny or by the finger of God, as bearers of a saving project whose significance justifies overlooking everything that delays or hinders the arrival to paradise. The leader, illuminated by the light given off by the great project that is there, visible on the horizon, but still somewhat unattainable, seeks a direct relationship with the people—although he himself is one with the people—which is now facilitated by the internet. . Every day, in the early brainwashing session he builds one, two, a thousand enemies whose defeat would allow him to achieve the utopia that his followers envision. This is the essential theme and the varieties on it are not very different from each other.

The first lesson is not said by Rostowski, but it is easy to guess and here in Mexico we have already put it into action: the opposition must unite and present a unified front. Thus, in Poland, although the ruling party won the largest vote, it could not form a government because the parties that occupied the next three places united in coalition obtained 53.5% in votes. Let's fly PiS. In Mexico, the Broad Front for Mexico has already been established, made up of PRI, PAN, PRD and an empowered and active civil society, around a successful and inspiring candidacy, that of Xóchitl Gálvez. The second lesson is stated by the Polish politician: “The longer he remains in government, the more difficult it will be to defeat the populist project because once in power he will gradually eliminate independent institutions and centers of influence, such as independent media. Therefore, the chances of democratic change in Hungary or Turkey, where autocratic governments have persisted for more than a decade, are much slimmer than in Poland. “If PiS had triumphed in this election, it could have guaranteed its permanence for several more elections.”

Another lesson is that “pro-democracy forces must not only offer variety in their coalitions, but they must also encourage turnout at the polls.” For his victory in 2020, today's President Joe Biden obtained more than three million extra votes. In the Polish elections, voter turnout was 74%, 12 points higher than in the previous election and the highest since the fall of communism in 1989, Rostowski continues. New votes must be sought, not only among abstentionists, but also in what would be defined a priori as strongholds of the officialdom. In Poland, the successful candidate, Donald Tusk - says Rostowski - campaigned for 8 months, visiting rural areas that were believed to be safe for PiS up to 3 or 4 times. The same can be said for Mexico. Neither the elderly nor the poorest are safe votes for Morena.

In 2018, López Obrador's candidacy benefited from the desire to believe, the benefit of the doubt and a campaign blatantly based on lies. After five years of merciless destruction of the dams to power that we had built, the benefit of the doubt was over, the desire to believe turned into disappointment and disillusionment. Sheinbaum's candidacy cannot inherit the benefit of the doubt either because he repeats the speech of his mentor over and over again. That the imminent candidate is “nothing dead”, but she is actually convinced of democracy? No, she already announced that she wants to destroy the federal Judiciary and especially the Supreme Court. Can someone who accepts an acting court minister into her campaign be respectful of the rule of law? Can someone who orders spying, inventing serious crimes—kidnapping!—on her adversaries be called a democrat?

The 2024 elections will impact the lives of generations. Let's learn the lessons from Poland and defeat Morena's autocratic project. And you know: #YoConXóchitl

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Nathan Rivera
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