Who is Esther Gordillo and how did she win Congress, you ask? Give me a moment for that issue. First, we have some quasi-official Congressional results. The preliminary estimates appear to have been remarkably inaccurate. (Diego Valle, can you explain that?)
In the Senate, the PRI-Green alliance has picked up 48 senators directly and 13 seats via P.R., for a total of 61, four short of a majority. In the House, the PRI-Green alliance has taken 157 districts plus 83 party-list seats. That is eleven seats shy of a majority. (It is also a full twenty districts less than the preliminary post-election count.)
The New Alliance Party (aka “Panal”) won another ten P.R. seats. If the PRI can convince the Panal to support them, that would provide 250 votes.
Now 250 votes aren’t quite enough for a majority. The Mexican constitution contains no tie-breaking provisions. Article 142 of the House internal rules states only that in the event of a tie, the House will immediately vote again.
If still tied, they vote again the next day, at which point that’s it. (Unless the matter is really pressing, in which case they will hope for a miracle, or something. Really! Go read the rules at the above link.) So the PRI will need 251 votes to pass legislation through the lower house. With the Panal plus one independent or PAN defector, they will have it.
Which brings us to Elba Esther Gordillo and the Panal. Gordillo heads the national teachers union (SNTE). Now, I am aware that Republicans like to prattle on about the power of the teachers unions in the United States. That is because Republicans do not know what a real union looks like. Gordillo is immensely powerful, and immensely corrupt. Frex, on an official salary of $26,910 a year she somehow bought a house in San Diego for $1.7 million, in the same neighborhood as Mitt Romney.
The SNTE was part of the PRI machine, but split in 2006 to support the PAN. As part of that split, the union created its own political party, the Panal. Lest there be some confusion, Patrick Corcoran reminds us that the top two positions in the Panal bureaucracy went respectively to Gordillo’s daughter and Gordillo’s personal secretary. Gordillo could have just thrown her votes to the PAN directly, but creating a party gave her more flexibility ... and access to federal election subsidies. Panal did not run a presidential candidate in ‘06, but it did picked up nine seats in the House and elected one senator.
This year, Panal ran its own candidate for president, the hapless and vaguely hipster-looking Gabriel Quadri. The reason was to leave Gordillo’s options open for post-election negotiations. The SNTE has 1.2 million members and managed to pull in about that many votes for Quadri, plus 1.7 million votes for the Panal’s congressional slate, enough for ten deputies and a senator.
Now, my prediction is that given its internal splits, the PAN will not resort to a Republican-style strategy of unified opposition. That will reduce Gordillo’s leverage. That said, she will be the PRI’s easiest route to a working majority in the lower house, giving her something close to a veto. In other words, it is probably the best possible result from La Maestra’s point of view.
But it is a bad result for Mexico. Not the worst, but bad. For those who still wonder why (the $1.7 million house wasn’t enough?) read this article from the Economist.
Ms. Gordillo is not the sort of person you want in a position of power, and this election gives her more power.