The final results are in. They are not far off what the initial numbers implied. The PRI-Green coalition secured half the seats, so they will need to rope in one additional deputy to pass anything. (Article 142 of the Chamber of Deputy’s internal rules says only that the chamber will vote a second time in the event of a tie.) The Humanists failed to clear the bar. So did the Labor Party, which will take its seats for this Congress but will not contest the 2018 election unless the recounts go their way.
One independent got in under the new rules: Manuel Clouthier. He was elected from Sinaloa’s Fifth District, the fightin’ Fifth! (Sorry.) It comprises the northern half of Culiacán.
Clouthier has an interesting political biography. His father was the PAN’s presidential candidate in 1988. The 1988 election in Mexico was blatantly fraudulent. Early results coming in from rural districts favored Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the left-wing opposition candidate from what became the PRD. Ministry of Interior officials feared the worst, panicked, and claimed that a computer failure prevented them from releasing preliminary results. A week later, the Federal Electoral Commission declared that the PRI had won with 51.7% of the votes, compared to 31.1% for Cárdenas and 16.8% for Clouthier père.
The PRI needed to legitimize the stolen election; otherwise it risked ignited a cycle of unrest. So it offered the PAN a backroom deal: the PAN would agree to the result and let the paper ballots from the election be burnt. In return the government would reform the electoral code, create an independent electoral institute, and alter the makeup of the Senate from two senators per state to four, with three seats going to the winner and one to the leading opposition party. (This is no longer how the Mexican senate operates.)
As far as we know, however, Clouthier père would have opposed these deals. He refused to recognize the ‘88 result, instead appointing a shadow cabinet in February ‘89. He died, however, in a car accident in October of that same year. There are unattributed stories that Clouthier junior quit the PAN in disgust over the deal with the PRI.
We do know three things. First, Clouthier rejoined the PAN to become a federal deputy but quit again when the PAN refused to put him up for a Senate seat. (Context: until the 2013 political reform, Mexican legislators could only serve one term. By refusing to put him up for Senate, the PAN leadership explicitly told Clouthier that it did not want him around.) Second, in 2012 Clouthier announced that he would join AMLO’s should AMLO win the presidency. Third, Clouthier’s positions are almost cloyingly neutral, save a for a bit about reforming the tax code to let businesses deduct 100% of their expenses.
In other words, he is a rich businessman son of a center-right politician with an emotional affinity for the left but an actual content-free platform, save for a (admittedly sensible) bit that would directly benefit him. It’s almost Filipino!
I am not sure that I would say that more such candidates would be of much benefit to Mexico. The U.S., yes, possibly. But as much as everyone in Mexico hates the parties, the country really is not suffering from a surfeit of party discipline or an inability to make cross-party deals. Other than giving an advantage to rich guys with built-in name recognition, I am not sure how allowing independent candidates is supposed to help.
I am going to have to start talking about the other big independent win soon, I suppose.