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August 25, 2021

Mexican mid–term elections in the context of institutional weaknesses and economic short–sightedness

Mexican elections

(Image by Author)

Written by Fabian Tigges

On June 6, 2021, Mexico experienced the largest elections of the country’s history. According to the National Electoral Institute (INE), 93 million Mexicans were eligible to vote on governorships, a new lower house of Congress and thousands of mayoral and local legislator posts. While Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (known as AMLO) was not on the ballot, last week`s mid-term elections were largely a referendum on his policies and decisive for the remaining three years of his presidency. Central to the success of his term in office will be his ability to deliver on economic development, guiding Mexico out of the Coronavirus slump. So far, however, the Mexican president has been known for his intolerant and impulsive decision-making. Meanwhile, his illiberal populist policies have not only failed to deliver on made campaign promises, but threatened Mexican checks and balances. As the country has been plagued by years of short-sighted and non-inclusive economic development policy, AMLO’s style of politics is paradigmatic of Mexico’s failure to live-up to its economic potential. Instead of developing a long-term strategy, the Mexican president puts personal interests first, promoting a short-sighted and unsuccessful strategy to combat poverty, crime, and corruption.

In 2018, AMLO entered office with a landslide electoral victory, making populist promises to the poor, advocating an economic nationalist stance, and promoting a state-centred economic model. Three years into his presidency there is, however, no sign of economic development, as the Mexican economy stagnated at -0.06 per cent GDP growth in 2019, while suffering a devastating decrease of over 8 per cent in GDP growth in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, instead of investing into the education and health system to promote economic development and prospects for Mexico’s youth, AMLO has been cutting down on essential funds in research and development as well as in cultural and social institutions, arbitrarily redirecting the money to Mexico’s poor. For instance, rather than establishing targeted skill development, tutoring or entrepreneurship programmes, and attracting investment to create long-term job opportunities, the Mexican president implemented a programme of non-targeted and unconditional transfer payments to Mexico’s high percentage of youth not in employment, education or training (so called NiNis). Hence, rather than finding long-term solutions to the Mexican economy’s challenges, AMLO convinces his people with populist claims and short-sightedly treats symptoms of a sick economy, which brings in votes but does not provide development prospects for Mexico.

Judging on the first three years of AMLO’s presidency, he is about to join a group of former Mexican presidents – from different political camps – who failed to reach long-term economic growth and inclusive development in the country. Throughout the 1980s, Mexico experienced a drastic shift in economic policy away from a developmentalist approach towards economic liberalisation. In subsequent years, Mexico opened-up its economy, influenced by US-trained technocrats, following the playbook of the Washington Consensus. While in the short-term trade liberalisation had positive effects on increasing exports and FDI inflows, it failed to significantly improve long-term inclusive economic development in Mexico. Over the last two decades, universal access to education was established, yet, there are large regional differences in the quality of education and only half of students attend upper secondary education. In addition, the labour force participation rate for women is far below that of men, and low in comparison to other countries within the OECD as well as in Latin America. Meanwhile, total factor productivity has had no positive impact on overall economic growth, indicating extremely limited productivity growth in the Mexican economy. The consistently high rate of migration to the US can be interpreted as a symptom of the limited economic opportunities in Mexico. While AMLO explained the increasing number of migrants, referring to US president Biden's friendlier migration policies, the motivation of many Mexicans to cross the border rather lies in people’s dissatisfaction with the economic prospects in their home country and the hope for a better life.

Looking back at the mid-term election results, while the president’s ruling party Morena (National Regeneration Movement) has lost its supermajority in the lower house of Congress, it will hold on to power in coalition with the Labour Party and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico. However, the ruling coalition falls short of a two thirds majority, thus, unable to make amendments to the constitution, which are necessary to push forward the president’s ambitious agenda. Yet, far more significant for the assessment of Mexican development and its state of democracy are the following numbers: since the beginning of campaigns in September 2020, the political risk consultancy firm Etellekt registered 100 assassinations of politicians, 36 of which were candidates, as well as over 900 acts of violence against politicians, ranging from verbal threats to kidnapping of and violent attacks on politicians and their family members. The violence is mainly motivated by drug cartels, seeking strategic power in local municipalities.

For decades, Mexican governments have struggled to put an end to organised crime and violence. Yet, insufficient economic opportunities in the formal economy and weak state institutions create patterns of incentives that strengthen the power of drug cartels. In addition, the ties of organised crime go deep into Mexican politics. In one of his morning press conferences, AMLO stated that there is no war on drug trafficking anymore. Unlike his predecessors, the Mexican president changed the strategy to tackle organised crime with “hugs not bullets”. In other words, he follows the approach of alleviating poverty and thereby diminishing the incentives to turn to drug groups in absence of state presence. Yet, his strategy lacks clear measures to directly address the power of organised crime in Mexico. On the contrary, instances like the bungled and brief capture of the son of Mexican drug boss “El Chapo” Guzmán in October 2019, or AMLO’s controversial handshake with Guzmán’s mother raise doubts about the Mexican president’s allegiance. In addition, various candidates of Morena are wanted in the United States. For instance, in the state of Guerrero, Félix Salgado Macedonio (Morena), the former candidate to the governorship and father of the new governor-elect, Evelyn Salgado (Morena), has been investigated for being involved in organised crime in the state’s largest city of Acapulco as well as on various accounts of violence and abuse. Despite these heavy allegations, AMLO defended Salgado. Furthermore, Mexico’s impunity rate of over 90 per cent gives drug cartels plenty of rope.

All in all, Mexico still has a way to go on the route to development, as it faces deep gender inequalities, significant deficiencies in the education system and lacking economic perspectives for its youth. Changing governments have not allowed for continuity and a long-term strategy in economic development that is focused on creating economic opportunities for its people. Meanwhile, the influential position Mexican drug cartels hold in politics and society is incentivised through patterns of corruption and impunity, and lies at the root of Mexico’s problems. Yet, instead of fighting the power of drug cartels through strengthening state institutions and the rule of law, the ties of organised crime go deep into the ruling party’s members.

Author’s Bio

Fabian Tigges is a Postgraduate student of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick and of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Konstanz. His MA dissertation was titled “From Austerity to Recovery Spending: Contemporary Economic Thought in Times of Crisis”. Since October 2020, he is an executive board member of the Warwick Global Development Society (WGDS). He is also a student Research Assistant at the chair of Political Science and International Politics of the University of Konstanz.

September 18, 2020

Pâle réconciliation ? Les enjeux des prochaines élections présidentielles en Côte d’Ivoire

Cote dIvore

(Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash)

Êcrit par Adou Djané Dit Fatogoma, Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques and Institut National de Santé Publique and Briony Jones, University of Warwick and WICID

(Lire l'article en anglais)

Le 24 août 2020, le Président Alassane Ouattara de Côte d'Ivoire a été autorisé par la Commission électorale indépendante (CEI) à se présenter aux élections pour un troisième mandat en octobre 2020. Ouattara avait précédemment déclaré qu'il ne se présenterait pas, et avait désigné le Premier ministre Amadou Gon Coulibaly pour lui succéder comme candidat de son parti, un allié politique dont il ne tarirait pas d’éloges en le décrivant de la manière suivante : « Sa loyauté n'a jamais faibli. Amadou est plus qu'un collègue, plus qu'un frère; c'est un fils » (Africa Confidential 19th March 2020). Lorsqu’Amadou Gon Coulibaly meurt subitement en juillet 2020, Ouattara n'avait pas de « plan b » (Le Monde 8thJuly 2020); il annonce alors qu'il se présenterait aux élections à l’occasion de son discours à la nation du 6 août 2020 à l’occasion du soixantième anniversaire de l’indépendance du pays. Cette déclaration a suscité des troubles dans le pays qui ont fait 2 morts (Africa Confidential 27thAugust 2020).

Pendant que le président Ouattara obtenait l'autorisation de se représenter, la CEI se basant sur des condamnations de la justice ivoirienne, radie de la liste électorale l'ancien président Laurent Gbagbo, et à l'ancien président du Parlement Guillaume Soro. Ils ne peuvent ainsi ni voter encore moins de se présenter aux élections (Africa Confidential 19th March 2020). On se retrouve ainsi dans un cercle vicieux de politique et de violence qui se poursuit. Ouattara avait lui-même été interdit de se présenter aux élections présidentielles jusqu'aux élections de 2010 qui ont occasionné une crise post-électorale ayant fait plus de 3000 morts. Dans ce blog, nous engageons la réflexion sur ce que cela signifie pour la réconciliation en Côte d’Ivoire et à la manière dont un dialogue politique ouvert et inclusif est plus important que jamais.

Dans la foulée de sa victoire contestée, Ouattara a mis en œuvre un processus de justice transitionnelle marquée par des procès de ses opposants devant des tribunaux nationaux, une commission nationale d'enquête et une commission vérité, dialogue et réconciliation de même qu’au niveau de la cour pénale internationale (CPI). Il ne semble ne pas être impressionné par les accusations de justice des vainqueurs et a plutôt promis une réconciliation nationale fondée sur la prospérité économique et la cohésion sociale. En 2015, il a clairement exprimé sa compréhension de la réconciliation dans un discours public :

« Être réconcilié, c'est d'abord pour moi, avoir un pays pacifique, où les gens vivent en harmonie avec les mêmes égalités des chances et je peux vous dire que c'est le cas. Il n'y a pas de zones réservées à aucun groupe ethnique. Dans tous les quartiers d'Abidjan, tous les groupes ethniques sont réunis. Pouvons-nous mieux concilier que cela? Si vous allez à Korhogo, Gagnoa, etc., vous trouverez des gens de toutes les ethnies. Fondamentalement, il ne doit pas induire en erreur la notion de réconciliation nationale en la reliant à une personne ou à un événement. […] La crise post-électorale était très grave. Plus de 3 000 personnes ont été tuées. Il est nécessaire que les personnes impliquées soient jugées ici ou ailleurs. D'ailleurs, si nous ne le faisons pas, les tribunaux internationaux le feront un jour. Tout le monde sera jugé ici. […] Il y a un élément clé dans ce que j'ai lu sur la réconciliation. C'est le bien-être de la population. C'est ce que nous faisons : un taux de croissance de 8 à 9%, réduire la pauvreté, construire des écoles, assainir l'environnement, etc. Une fois que nous aurons terminé tout cela, les tensions vont baisser » (President Ouattara’s speech, Fraternité matin, vendredi 26 juin 2015. N° 15164 p 6 et 7).

Les controverses autour des élections à venir en octobre de cette année démontrent les dangers du court-termisme lorsqu'il s'agit de faire face au passé, ainsi que les risques d'une démocratie à « case à cocher » sans débat substantiel et sans transparence pour jeter les bases d’une prospérité économique durable selon la version de la réconciliation de Ouattara. Il n'est pas clair que son approche puisse aborder et prendre en compte les questions d'exclusion d'individus de la course à la présidentielle, de la crise profonde de la légitimité démocratique ou des cycles continus de violence. L'histoire du système politique ivoirien est faite d’exclusion : soit l'exclusion de l'opposition par le régime au pouvoir, soit l'auto-exclusion par des partis d’oppositions qui refusent de participer à ce qu’ils estiment être une mascarade. Depuis l'introduction de la politique multipartite dans les années 1990, cette dynamique a continué à façonner le paysage politique et continue de façonner le débat sur la réconciliation aujourd'hui.

Nous pouvons le voir dans la reconfiguration de l’espace politique et des batailles en vue des élections d’octobre. L'ancienne alliance politique qui dirigeait le pays de la crise post-électorale jusqu'en 2019 est éclatée désormais, et les dirigeants des partis politiques autrefois favorables sont désormais des opposants à Alassane Ouattara. Le principal reproche qui lui est fait est de ne pas parvenir à la réconciliation pour tous les Ivoiriens, y compris ceux qui sont toujours en exil et ceux qui se trouvent dans les prisons nationales. Le 31 août, l'archevêque d'Abidjan, le cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa, a organisé un point de presse au cours duquel il a évoqué la situation sociopolitique en Côte d'Ivoire et a déclaré qu'à son avis « la candidature d'Alassane Ouattara pour un troisième mandat n'est pas nécessaire… la réconciliation est plus importante que les élections… ». Cela a provoqué une levée de boucliers entre soutien et d'opposition, démontrant à quel point la voie de la réconciliation est extrêmement source de division.

Cote Divore reconciliation

(Photo by Adou Djané)

Le chef de l'ancienne rébellion, Guillaume Soro, est désormais condamné à une peine de prison par contumace et nombre de ses partisans, dont des parlementaires, sont également en prison. Le Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire - Rassemblement démocratique africain (PDCI-RDA) et le Front populaire ivoirien (FPI) de l'ancien président Laurent Gbagbo ont signé un document cadre de collaboration sur le `` Projet de réconciliation des Ivoiriens pour une paix durable '' le 30 avril 2020, au siège du PDCI-RDA à Cocody. Les objectifs de la nouvelle `` alliance '' sont de trouver le pardon dans la vérité et la justice, d'éliminer les séquelles de crises successives, de trouver des solutions originales aux problèmes qui sont à la base de ces crises, et de construire ensemble une `` nouvelle Côte d'Ivoire '' sur la base de principes, règles et valeurs partagés par tous les Ivoiriens et tous les étrangers résidant en Côte d'Ivoire. Mabri Toikeuse, leader de l'Union pour la démocratie et la paix (UDPCI) et dernier à quitter l'alliance au pouvoir, a annoncé sa candidature et a lancé une nouvelle plateforme électorale avec d'autres partis: «Nous venons d'achever la première série de signatures pour lancer cette plateforme électorale. C'est aussi une plate-forme pour la paix. Je voudrais remercier toutes les parties qui nous font confiance en nous rejoignant dans notre combat pour la paix».

Le lundi 14 septembre 2020, le Conseil constitutionnel a annoncé sa décision de retenir 4 candidats sur les 44 postulants aux élections présidentielles. Cette décision du Conseil constitutionnel a donné à l’ex-président Henri Konan Bédié l'occasion de se présenter comme le candidat qui se bat contre l'exclusion politique : « J’ai pris acte de la validation de ma candidature par le Conseil constitutionnel. Cependant, je dénonce la validation de la candidature inconstitutionnelle de M. Alassane OUATTARA et l'exclusion arbitraire et antidémocratique de grands dirigeants politiques, notamment Laurent GBAGBO, Guillaume SORO, Mabri TOIKEUSSE, Mamadou KOULIBALY et Marcel Amon TANOH. Il faut rester en ordre de marche pour une alternance démocratique en vue de construire une Côte d'Ivoire réconciliée, solidaire et prospère ». Dans le contexte de la politique ivoirienne, cela a une certaine ironie car c'est Bédié lui-même qui a été associé à l'introduction du concept d'ivoirité visant à exclure Ouattara de la course présidentielle entre 1994 et 1999 sur la base des allégations de sa lignée burkinabé.

Quand on observe ce qui se passe actuellement autour des prochaines élections, on est donc exactement dans la même situation qu'en 1995, 1999, 2000, 2010 où l'on a vu des violences politiques. La réconciliation promise par Ouattara ne s'est pas concrétisée, non pas parce qu'elle est la faute d'un individu ou d'un parti politique en particulier, mais parce qu'il est long de se réconcilier avec une longue histoire de violence politique, d'exclusion politique et d'inégalité entre les groupes ethniques, une tâche de long terme qui n'est ni prévisible ni linéaire. Les recherches menées par Interpeace et Indigo Côte d’Ivoire identifient un certain nombre de défis à la cohésion sociale, notamment les inégalités en matière de propriété foncière, le manque d'opportunités économiques pour les jeunes et la réduction de l'engagement civique. La capture de l'espace politique, auparavant par Félix Houphouët-Boigny, qui a régné de l'indépendance en 1960 à 1993, puis par des tentatives successives d'exclure des individus des courses présidentielles, a sévèrement restreint l'espace pour un dialogue public sûr sur les défis et les réalités de réconciliation. La réconciliation peut avoir une connotation différente selon les personnes et les groupes. Il ne s’agit pas d’un problème propre à la Côte d’Ivoire, mais d’une tension inhérente aux appels à la réconciliation partout où nous les entendons. Dans quelle mesure différents points de vue peuvent-ils être intégrés dans un projet national de réconciliation? Car si la réconciliation doit aboutir au type de cohésion sociale que les Ivoiriens ont promis depuis des générations, elle doit être fondée sur le dialogue, la reconnaissance des autres et pouvoir accueillir des expériences et des points de vue variés. Si la réconciliation elle-même disparaît de la vue pendant que les politiques se disputent, ce seront les Ivoiriens qui continueront à en subir les effets.

Lire l'article en anglais

Wither Reconciliation? The Factors at Play in the Upcoming Ivoirian Elections


Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash)

Written by Adou Djané Dit Fatogoma, Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques and Institut National de Santé Publique and Briony Jones, University of Warwick and WICID

(You can read this post in French)

On the 24thAugust 2020, President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire was granted leave by the Commission éléctorale indépendante(CEI) to stand for election for a third term in October 2020. Ouattara had previously said he would not stand, instead anointing Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly to succeed him as his party’s candidate, a political ally he described in the following way: “His loyalty has never faltered. Amadou is more than a colleague, more than a brother; he is a son” (Africa Confidential 19th March 2020). When Coulibaly died in July 2020, Ouattara did not have a ‘plan b’ (Le Monde 8thJuly 2020) and announced that he would stand for election to the sounds of unrest in the country which left 2 dead (Africa Confidential 27thAugust 2020). At the same time as he was granted permission to do so, the CEI also banned the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, and former Parliamentary Speaker, Guillaume Soro, from voting, let alone standing in the election (Africa Confidential 19th March 2020). A vicious circle of politics and violence continues – Ouattara had himself been banned from standing in Presidential elections until the 2010 elections and post-election unrest which left more than 3,000 dead. In this blog we reflect on what this means for reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire, and how an open and inclusive political dialogue is more important than ever.

Hot on the heels of his contested victory, Ouattara implemented an internationally sanctioned transitional justice process with trials of his opponents in domestic courts, a National Commission of Enquiry, and a Truth, Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission. He did not let accusations of victor’s justice stand in the way and instead promised national reconciliation founded on economic prosperity and social cohesion. In 2015, he made clear his understanding of reconciliation in a public speech:

“Being reconciled is first for me, to have a peaceful country, where people live in harmony with the same equalities of opportunities and I can tell you that this is the case. There are no areas reserved for any ethnic group. In all districts of Abidjan, all ethnic groups are together. Can we better reconcile that? If you go to Korhogo, Gagnoa, etc., you will find people of all ethnic groups. Basically, it should not mislead the notion of national reconciliation as to link it to a person or an event. […] The post-election crisis was very serious. More than 3,000 people were killed. It is necessary that those involved be tried here or elsewhere. Besides, if we do not, international courts will do it one day. Everyone will be judged here. […] There is a key element in what I have read about reconciliation. This is the well-being of the population. This is what we are doing: a growth rate of 8 to 9%, reducing poverty, building schools, cleaning up the environment, etc. Once we will finish all this, tensions will drop” (President Ouattara’s speech, Fraternité matin, vendredi 26 juin 2015. N° 15164 p 6 et 7)

The controversies surrounding this year’s upcoming elections demonstrate the dangers of short-termism when it comes to dealing with the past, as well as the risks of a ‘tick box’ democracy without substantial debate and transparency to provide a foundation for the kinds of economic prosperity vital to Ouattara’s version of reconciliation. It is not clear that his approach can speak to a history of excluding individuals from presidential races, to the deep crisis of democratic legitimacy or the continuing cycles of violence. The history of the Ivorian political system has been one of exclusion: either exclusion of the opposition by the regime in power, or self-exclusion by opposing powers who refuse to participate. Since the introduction of multi-party politics in the 1990s, this dynamic has continued to shape the political landscape and continues to shape the debate about reconciliation today. We can see this in the political jostling and re-shaping of the party-political space in the lead up to this October’s elections. The former political alliance which ruled the country from the post-election crisis until 2019 is now scattered, and the leaders of the formerly supportive political parties are now opponents of Alassane Ouattara. The main reproach against him is the failure to achieve reconciliation for all Ivorians, including those still in exile and those in domestic prisons. On 31st August, the Archbishop of Abidjan, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa, organised a press briefing during which he spoke about the socio-political situation in Côte d'Ivoire and declared that in his opinion the candidacy of Alassane Ouattara for a third term "is not necessary… reconciliation is more important than elections…”. This prompted immediate outcries of both support and opposition, demonstrating how the path to reconciliation is potentially extremely divisive.

Cote Divore reconciliation

(Photo by Adou Djané)

The leader of the former rebellion, Guillaume Soro, is now under a prison sentence in absentia and many of his supporters, including members of parliament, are also in prison. The Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire - African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA) and the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of the former President Laurent Gbagbo have signed a framework document for collaboration on the ‘Reconciliation Project of Ivoirians for a Lasting Peace’ on the 30thApril 2020, at the PDCI-RDA headquarters in Cocody. The objectives of the new ‘alliance’ are to find forgiveness in truth and justice, to eliminate the after-effects of successive crises, to find original solutions to the problems which are the basis of these crises, and to build together a ‘new Côte d’Ivoire’ based on principles, rules and values ​​shared by all Ivorians and all foreigners residing in Côte d’Ivoire. Mabri Toikeuse, leader of the Union for Democracy and Peace (UDPCI) and the last to leave the alliance in power, has announced his candidature and has launched a new electoral platform in collaboration with a series of other parties: “We have just completed the first series of signatures to launch this electoral platform. It is also a platform for peace. I would like to say thank you to all those parties who trust us by joining us in our fight for peace”.

On Monday, 14th September 2020, the constitutional council announced its decision to retain 4 candidates out of the 44 applicants to stand in Presidential elections. This decision of the constitutional council gave Bédié the opportunity to present himself as the candidate standing up against political exclusion: “I have taken note of the validation of my candidacy by the Constitutional Council. However, I denounce the validation of the unconstitutional candidacy of Mr. Alassane OUATTARA and the arbitrary and undemocratic exclusion of major political leaders, in particular Laurent GBAGBO, Guillaume SORO, Mabri TOIKEUSSE, Mamadou KOULIBALY and Marcel Amon TANOH. We must remain in working order for democratic alternation with a view to building a reconciled, united and prosperous Côte d'Ivoire.” In the context of Ivoirian politics this has a certain irony as it is Bédié himself who was associated with the introduction of the concept of “ivoirité” designed to exclude Ouattara from the presidential race between 1994 and 1999 on the basis of claims of his Burkina Faso lineage.

When we observe what is happening now around the upcoming election, we thus have exactly the same situation as in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2010 where we saw political violence. The reconciliation which Ouattara promised has not come to fruition, not because it is the fault of any particular individual or political party, but because coming to terms with a long history of political violence, political exclusion, and inequality between ethnic groups, is a long-term process which is neither predictable nor linear. Research undertake by Interpeace and Indigo Côte d’Ivoire identifies a number of challenges to social cohesion, including inequalities over land ownership, lack of economic opportunities for young people, and reduced civic engagement. The capture of the political space, previously by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who ruled from independence in 1960 until 1993, and then in successive attempts to exclude individuals from the Presidential races, has severely restricted space for safe public dialogue about the challenges and realities of reconciliation. There has also been a lack of acknowledgement that reconciliation may look very different to different people. This is not a problem unique to Côte d’Ivoire but is a tension inherent within calls to reconciliation wherever we hear them. To what extent can different points of view be accommodated within a national project to reconcile? For if reconciliation is to lead to the kind of social cohesion that Ivoirians have been promised for generations, it must be founded on dialogue, acknowledgement of others, and be able to accommodate varied experiences and points of view. If reconciliation itself disappears from view while the politicians argue over it, it will be Ivoirians who continue to suffer the effects.

You can read this post in French.


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