July 1 was perhaps the most consequential election in Mexican history. In addition to electing left-leaning Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to the presidency, Mexicans filled over 3,000 positions (more than ever before) including the entire federal congress, nine governors, and hundreds of mayors. Turnout was over a staggering 65 percent, suggesting that Mexicans can teach their neighbors to the north something about the importance of voting.
Furthermore, the election was hugely important in terms of conferring faith in democracy and the rule of law for all Mexicans, especially those not traditionally empowered. The Mexican National Electoral Institute conducted what appears to be a fair and transparent election, so much so that the AMLO’s three opponents conceded the race before INE had officially named him the winner—further evidence that the young Mexican democracy is vibrant and well-entrenched.
AMLO is, at heart, a pragmatist, who we believe seems to understand his unique opportunity to bring, as he says, a new "transformation" to Mexico.
The new president-elect achieved a convincing and dominant win, with a coherent message and agenda, and with broad coat tails in Congress. AMLO has apparently carried every state but one, and his Morena party and its coalition partners (the leftist Workers Party [PT] and the socially conservative Encuentro party [PES]) will hold a majority of seats in both houses of Congress (though they will lack the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution). His party also carried a majority of the nine gubernatorial races up for election this cycle and made substantial inroads at the municipal level throughout the country, including in traditional PRI strongholds. AMLO has a clear mandate, and if he is able to govern credibly and fulfill his promise to root out corruption, it could be a true turning point for Mexico.
Despite widespread and sometimes hysterical reporting characterizing AMLO as an anti-American populist along the lines of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, he is far from that. He is, at heart, a pragmatist, who we believe seems to understand his unique opportunity to bring, as he says, a new "transformation" to Mexico. Monarch Chairman, Ambassador James Jones, has a thoughtful and insightful piece on AMLO in the Washington Post, which gives further insight into the man and his approach to governing. AMLO’s pragmatism will be challenged, however, by the reality that he is a complex person with sometimes competing and divergent priorities, making him something of a "Mexican paradox." Pacific Council member Pamela Starr delves further into this complexity in her excellent piece in The New York Times.
AMLO will take office on December 1. The coming months will be a time of transition and some degree of uncertainty.
With respect to the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship, we don’t expect an immediate deterioration in bilateral relations. Indeed, President Trump was one of the first to send a congratulatory message (via tweet, predictably), and the two men had a reportedly cordial telephone conversation following the election. Although AMLO will likely be far less tolerant of Trump’s bullying and will be a far stronger adversary for Trump than Peña Nieto has been, he has emphasized the importance of mutual respect as the basis of the bilateral relationship.
Nor do we expect fundamental changes or alteration to the NAFTA negotiations, which have broken down primarily because of U.S., not Mexican, intransigence. AMLO has said he will request that the current negotiating team also include members of his economic group, most of whom are experienced and pragmatic economists that the international markets appear to be comfortable with, at least thus far. And in his telephone conversation with President Trump, AMLO has said he proposed a broader agreement that would include an emphasis on economic development.
AMLO will take office on December 1. The coming months will be a time of transition and some degree of uncertainty. Monarch will be closely monitoring the situation and will keep our clients fully apprised of developments. Visit monarch-global.com for more information.
Michael Camuñez is a Pacific Council Director, chair of the board’s Audit Committee, and president and CEO of Monarch Global Strategies.
A version of this article was originally published by Monarch Global Strategies.
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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.