"The New Left in Mexico: The Political Program of the PRD" with Emilio Zebadúa
Organized by the Mexico Institute, the forum featured Congressman Emilio Zebadúa, coordinator for domestic policy and state reform for the left-of-center Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). He was elected to Congress in 2003 and is a former member of the Federal Electoral Institute, cabinet chief in the Chiapas state government, and professor of political science.
Congressman Zebadúa began by outlining the PRD's current political stance amid the turmoil of the PRI and the PAN, the other two major political parties in Mexico. Since 1997, the PRD has won the mayor's office in Mexico City and the governors' races in a number of states (including Michoácan, Zacatecas, Tlaxcala, Baja California Sur, and, in coalition, Chiapas). This has changed the approach of the party from tactics of confrontation and resistance to a more pragmatic approach based on building alliances. In particular, Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador has injected new life into the PRD with his dynamic way of governing the capital. He is now, according to all polls, the front-runner for president in 2006.
Mayor López Obrador's success in pushing through legislation and new projects in Mexico City contrasts significantly with the stalemate between President Vicente Fox and the Mexican Congress. According to Congressman Zebadúa, the Fox administration has failed to create a broad alliance with either the PRD or the PRI, therefore hindering any real policy changes that require legislation from Congress. He noted that the Fox administration has created many positive changes in Mexico, particularly with regards to democratic openness; however, many of the administration's policies are simply a continuation of the policies left behind by previous presidents.
He cited several reasons for the PAN's failing during the past three years. First of all, President Fox did not assert himself as the leading political figure needed within the PAN in order to promote organizational and political clarity. Second, President Fox's relationship with the PRI is ambivalent, at best, which is compounded by the internal divisiveness of the PRI. In addition, the lack of coordination in President Fox's cabinet and the inability to set clear goals and priorities led his party to lose votes in the midterm election. Congressman Zebadúa pointed out that after three years, the President has not yet gotten a single major bill through Congress. Thus the debate about the next presidential candidate has begun earlier than anticipated.
Whether the PRD can win a national election remains a question of debate. If Mayor López Obrador were to compete in the next presidential election (and the mayor refuses to talk about the 2006 elections yet), his campaign would need to include different political perspectives within the PRD as well as politicians from other parties. Congressman Zebadúa stressed that in order for such a small party as the PRD to govern and avoid the paralysis of the current administration, it would need to create strong political alliances with other parties. Furthermore, the PRD, through alliances, would need to develop a presence in the North and parts of the South, where it is currently weak.
Congressman Zebadúa stressed that the PRD is in a process of evolution. It began as a leftist opposition party whose platform emphasized the rights of minorities and women, human rights, the fight against corruption, and opposition to NAFTA. As the party has begun governing major states and cities, it has moved toward a more moderate, pragmatic platform. The party increasingly recognizes the need for major structural reforms as well as a fiscal reform to increase the federal government's ability to respond to needs in society. It no longer opposes NAFTA and worries instead about how to make trade work for development. However, the party also remains committed to issues of human rights, rule of law, and social welfare.
He sees two alternatives for 2006 presidential elections: with the PAN discredited, either the PRI will return to power, if that party can resolve its internal struggles, or the PRD will win by building a coalition that goes beyond the traditional left.