In the recent midterm elections in Mexico, the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) suffered a resounding defeat, the third largest in its history. It’s clear that the ordinary citizen, tired of corruption and violence rampant in the country, chastised the party in power.
This undeniable fact has several very interesting aspects.
The vote did not disperse among the different opposition parties; it concentrated in a single one, the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), identified with pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family causes. It is evident to the eyes of an attentive observer that the initiative of President Enrique Peña Nieto to amend the constitution to introduce a guarantee of “marriage equality” weighed on the minds of voters.
This has been noted by several players in the electoral race, including Martin Orozco (PAN), triumphant governor for the State of Aguascalientes. Francisco Labastida Ochoa, one of the most distinguished leaders of PRI, noted this as well.
Before the presidential initiative to include gay marriage into the constitution, it seemed that even in very tight electoral scenarios, the PRI would be victorious. Yet after the initiative was introduced, this was no longer the case.
This defeat is not mere chance.
There is growing unease in Mexican society against Peña Nieto’s initiative, and this feeling increases as its contents are better known. For example, exercising their rights as citizens, Christians of different denominations – Catholic, mainline Protestants and Evangelicals, who represent the majority of the voters – expressed in different ways their rejection of the amendment.
They aren’t the only ones protesting, even though they’re the ones the media has paid most attention to, partially to disqualify them for being “religious.” That’s a common practice in Mexico, where the media can seem anti-Catholic.
Rebellion has also spread within the ranks of the PRI, generating anger among active members who, seeing the results, will now have more arguments against the initiative of the president. The PRI leadership would do well to consider this initiative as one of the major causes behind their defeat.
This is clear: to popular grievances over corruption and violence, the party added this measure, which is perceived as an aggression against the family, the only institution in which the Mexicans trust, because in it we find support and protection.
Different studies of public opinion regarding confidence in institutions always rank the family and Christian churches first.
Arithmetic has a role in politics, and Peña Nieto should realize that the political numbers don’t add up.
There’s a growing rebellion within PRI, to the extent that the party leader, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, has promised that the conscience of legislators will be respected, including their religious one. This means that Peña won’t have the legislators in his party voting as a single block.
The initiative to reform the constitution could perhaps go through the Chamber of Deputies through pressure, arm-twisting, blackmail and violence against its members, but it’d be even harder for it to move forward in the Senate.
There, the initiative would need the full support of the PAN and the majority of the PRI members to stop the reform, and those numbers are already hard to achieve.
Here, one has to wonder: Will the PAN let this remarkable victory slip away to back a presidential initiative that simply adds to the accumulation of grievances among the Mexican people?
What would the PAN win by doing so, at a time when society has confirmed its overall support for the party with its votes? Also, what would the members of PRI win by joining a cause that evidently harms their numbers and divides them?
In effect, they would have to be suicidal to support the initiative.
The electoral message is clear, and now, the 2018 presidential elections are at stake. Thus, Peña Nieto has three possibilities.
One is to withdraw the initiative, accepting it failed, which would leave him as a lame-duck until the end of his six-year term.
The second is to try to impose the initiative through force, risking a personal defeat and unnecessarily increasing social unrest when it’s clear that the last thing Mexicans need is more violence, either real or symbolic. Why divide the country, why polarize the spirits when what Mexico needs is unity?
There is a third way which is by far the best alternative, by amending the bill.
The bill could be revised to protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, adding procreation as one of its possible purposes (non-binding, but always present). Then, it could take advantage of the generosity and ductility of civil law to create new institutions that protect new human relations.
It’s worth recalling that in Mexico we have the legal tradition of a Civil Code, unlike the United States where the tradition of “Common Law” still dominates.
The third way seems to be the most reasonable one since it’d give respite to Peña Nieto, something he dearly needs. It would appease the rebellion within his party, build effective bridges for dialogue with civil society and other political representations, and most importantly, it would reconcile the legitimate demands of a pluralistic society, which is hungry for peace and justice with dignity.
The third way is the only space where different interests converge for the common good. Peña Nieto shouldn’t let this opportunity pass him by.
Progress along this path, centered in reason and respect, is simple. We simply need to regain a sense of humor, opening wide avenues to common sense.