Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Future of Mexico under AMLO
The Future of Mexico under AMLO

The Future of Mexico under AMLO

Not long ago, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) third bid for the Mexican presidency seemed to many an uncertain play at best, the last stride of a stubborn politician clinging to chances largely bygone. The left reached the 2018 elections organizationally fractured and plagued by in-fighting, with the traditional Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)—AMLO’s party home since 1988—in disarray and overshadowed by MORENA (National Regeneration Movement), the personalistic vehicle founded by AMLO after his second presidential defeat, in 2012. A majority of the electorate appeared to reject AMLO himself, his support seemingly capped at some 35%—the share obtained in his first showing in 2006, at the peak of Latin America’s left turn.

The refusal to concede defeat in that dramatically close race—which saw undue government and business interference ahead of election day, but, against AMLO’s claims, there was no evidence of vote fraud—and an unrelenting campaign against existing institutions confirmed to critics AMLO’s dangerous authoritarian traits. Praised or demonized, few remained indifferent to his nationalistic rhetoric and snarky denunciations of a ruling oligarchy, coupled with holistic appeals to the “people.” No other politician in Mexico’s recent history can claim to excite similar passions.

Yet, a majority appeared to maintain reservations about AMLO ahead of the 2018 elections. At a regional level, the momentum for the left also seemed long past, with Brazil and Venezuela sunk in political crisis and Argentina, Chile, and Colombia turning decisively rightwards in the most recent cycles. Portrayed by rivals and anxious economic elites alike as an intolerant populist with outdated policy prescriptions, AMLO’s chances in 2018 appeared to rest on the possibility of a fragmented and highly competitive presidential race—his best hopes in building a short plurality from his passionate loyal core.

The electorate spoke differently. On July 1, AMLO captured the presidency with a commanding 53% of the popular vote, leading his nearest competitor by 31 points (17.5 million votes) and carrying 31 of 32 states, from industrialized Nuevo León in the once-impenetrable north to indigenous Chiapas and his home state of Tabasco in Mexico’s south. By any criterion, the election represents a landslide victory, one that leaves the world’s fifth most populous democracy and largest Spanish-speaking country under the unambiguous command of a nationalistic, left-leaning political force. What is the meaning of MORENA’s resounding victory? Where is Mexico headed after this electoral earthquake?

A Critical Election

 Elections are ordinary events in any democracy, part of the politics as usual. Not all, however, are of equal consequence for the basic structure and functioning of the political system. Sporadically, deep adjustments in voting behavior and competitive patterns make elections inflection points, hinges between different political eras. Such an assessment demands considerable hindsight, but certain features make the 2018 elections clearly extraordinary in the short history of Mexican democracy. No other democratic contest has, to date, produced a similar mandate, in either magnitude or political orientation.

First, there is the sheer size of AMLO’s majority under what is, after all, a fairly new symbol in the ballot—though importantly, MORENA emerged from the trunk of the existing party system, not as an outside disruptive force. Ever since the establishment of fully free and fair elections in 1997, the three parties formed under dominant-party authoritarianism (Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI; National Action Party, or PAN; and AMLO’s former party, the PRD) had split the electorate and nearly closed off the electoral market, with the left owning only a third and never winning a national contest. No presidential candidate neared a majority of the popular vote. In this basic respect, the 2018 elections mark a sea change. Under fully competitive conditions, AMLO has crafted the largest voter coalition of the past three decades—a bloc of unthinkable proportions since the authoritarian period, with its markedly skewed contests.

Further, his election has raised an unusual enthusiasm—his victory spontaneously celebrated in the streets on the night of July 1 like a sports win. The closest parallel lies in the 2000 elections that put an end to 70 years of dominant-party rule. Until recently, political apathy, if not an unqualified rejection of the political class as a whole, was thought to dominate public sentiment.

Equally salient is the achievement of the first legislative majority since 1997, a political fact that had forced both PRI and PAN presidents to seek allies across the aisle—and transfer generous federal resources for discretionary use in the states, be it to pass the budget, approve nominations, or advance legislation. Greater pluralism in Congress had since the 1990s produced center-right PRI-PAN coalitions to pass market-oriented economic reforms, with the left typically standing in opposition. In a major reversal, MORENA and its allies will now enjoy simple majorities in both the lower house and the Senate, enough to reform ordinary legislation. Constitutional reforms, though requiring collaboration from at least some in the opposition, are arithmetically close. Unlike other personalistic leaders, AMLO comes to power with majoritarian legislative representation and a party. 

Compounding such a resounding win was the dramatic, possibly irreversible decline in support for the incumbent PRI, the revolutionary mass party that dominated Mexican politics for the entire 20th century, in tight imbrication with state institutions themselves. Anchoring the center of the party system, the PRI’s unrivaled territorial penetration and steady support granted predictability and balance to the electoral game since the transition to democracy. Even as the country’s security crisis worsened, the economy remained on a decades-long trajectory of mediocre growth (real annual per capita growth averages only 1.1% in the past 25 years), and citizens became increasingly disenchanted with democracy, voting patterns remained fairly stable.

As an authoritarian-successor party, the PRI retained an aura of being the only alternative in the ballot with true governing knowhow, even at the cost of a questionable reputation—perhaps precisely because of it. After its 2012 comeback, the party proved the latter point beyond doubt, yet failed resoundingly on the former. 2017 was the most violent year in two decades; the population below the poverty line sat at 51% in 2016, only two points less than in 1992. Unable to deliver on its promise of making government work again and embroiled in gross acts of corruption at all levels of the state, the PRI saw a central piece of its remaining appeal break into shatters. For the 2018 race, the party picked José Antonio Meade for a candidate, a technocratic cabinet member who had also served under a PAN administration, with no electoral experience or popular appeal. Outside top policymaking circles and the business community, he was essentially unrelatable. His exceptional virtues, a personal track record untainted by corruption and, not coincidentally, being the furthest removed from the party were all a clear sign of the ongoing crisis of democratic representation.

At least two other elements combined to produce the most unpopular presidential administration since records are kept, setting the PRI for a devastating blow at the polls. First, as conditions worsened and its popularity declined, the government responded not by changing course, but by saturating the airwaves with clumsy and lavish publicity campaigns—popular discontent taken as a perceptual phenomenon without anchors in lived experience. Having achieved several major “structural reforms” to complete Mexico’s market-oriented modernization (spanning energy, education, finance, telecommunications, taxes, and the labor market), Peña Nieto’s government felt unfairly and prematurely condemned and grossly misunderstood.

The government’s readily apparent diagnosis of a mistaken, confused citizenry only exacerbated popular resentment. Further, it worked to provide substance to AMLO’s denunciation of an indifferent, even cynical ruling elite, utterly out of touch with the plight and lifestyles of ordinary people. Meanwhile, evidence of influence-peddling and misuse of public coffers continued to mount. Like actors in a screenplay, those holding the levers of power seemed bent on conforming to AMLO’s script, populated by a set of rapacious rulers who enjoyed the perks of office and catered exclusively to private interest, indeed preying unashamedly upon the people. His antiestablishment discourse effectively tapped into the public’s sense of betrayal.

Yet, besides a resounding referendum on the sitting government, the election was also arguably the endpoint of a longer cycle. A politician of fine-tuned instincts, AMLO sensed that something deeper than ordinary dissatisfaction with a poorly performing administration boiled under the surface. The dual transition to democracy and a market-based development model, which transformed Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s, had brought with it expectations of modernity, broad-based prosperity, and accountable government. By this election, that promise rang irredeemably hollow. After nearly 40 years of insisting on the benefits of competition and “structural reforms,” two decades of democracy with disappointing social and economic results (under both PRI and PAN administrations), a decade of uncontrollable violence and militarized public security under the drug war, and major episodes of government corruption, public sentiment showed unambiguous signs of exhaustion, when not outright anger. The country was primed for change, yet one that called for a rehabilitation of the national interest and the state.

The PAN, debilitated by factional disputes and now trying to capture the center in a previously unthinkable alliance with a diluted Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), appeared more as co-responsible for the status quo than a genuine alternative, having had its turn at bat from 2000 to 2012. The government’s factious use of the attorney general’s office against the PAN-PRD candidate Ricardo Anaya, in a petty dispute for the second place, further harmed his electoral chances. The PAN, who had itself resorted to improper use of the state apparatus against the left ahead of the 2006 elections, now fell victim to similar tactics.

Instead, AMLO seized the opportunity this time. As the relentless critic of the status quo, the uncompromising opponent, the chosen bête noir of leading economic and political figures, he was uniquely positioned to serve as the outlet for deep-seated discontent and accumulated grievances. Astutely, he integrated the election into a larger narrative of decline and regime crisis, one he claimed he had ceaselessly tried to arrest. His long trajectory in the opposition was presented as an arduous but indispensable exercise of consciousness-raising, a crusade in defense of the nation from market fundamentalism and elite interests, destined to succeed by virtue of its superior moral force.

In this respect, AMLO’s victory can be said to belong with the wave of leftist victories that swept Latin America in the 2000s, following the period of market-based economic adjustment—an exceptionally delayed but meaningful recoil. Unlike cases where such backlash emerged in the form of radical anti-“neoliberal” outsiders or grass-roots protest movements that mounted re-founding challenges to the established order such as occurred in Venezuela and Bolivia, in Mexico it assumes a more moderate, orderly, and institutionalized form. Indeed, it has been channeled by a professional politician who, if ruthlessly critical of the oligarchic features of “the establishment” and wrongly in denial of the genuinely free and fair character of electoral contests (as his own victory demonstrates), ultimately built his career within the contours of the existing party and electoral systems. Along with AMLO’s own record in office, the strength of Mexico’s private sector, its weakened but surviving opposition parties, and a more vigilant civil society and press, this augurs a moderate path forward.

As before, AMLO resorted during the campaign to a binary redrawing of the political space, albeit striking a more inclusive and friendly tone. Rather than a three-way affair or a pluralistic contest between different political worldviews, electoral competition involved an antagonistic contest between a self-serving elite in control of the “PRIAN” and a broad movement that, though focused on the disadvantaged, would finally represent and govern for all—rich and poor, progressives and social conservatives. The vagueness and contradictions of his program could exasperate some, but these qualities turned MORENA into a big tent for the disaffected. Within his heterogeneous electoral coalition, all could project upon AMLO their particular views and desires, just as detractors liberally attached to his person their varied social anxieties and fears. Above all, MORENA surged as the vehicle to reject the status quo.

The core message was unsophisticated but persuasive, effectively communicated in clever slogans and symbolically charged promises: nothing can change for the better if political power (starting with the president himself) refuses to unwaveringly follow a moral compass, indeed when the powerful relinquish the very notions of the public interest and the common good. Change must start from the top-down, with the replacement of rulers catering to personal interests and greedy economic elites by an honest leader with a principled willingness to serve no one else but the people. AMLO ran on an anticorruption campaign, but the underlying definition of corruption referred less to the lower levels of the bureaucracy than white-collar influence-peddling, less to street police bribes than a lack of virtue and public concern among political and economic elites.

Like no other politician in Mexico’s recent history, AMLO grasps the symbolic, performative dimension of power in democratic politics. As part of his commitment to eradicate corruption and privilege from the top-down, he pledged to slash top government salaries—starting with the president’s own—sell a recently acquired luxurious presidential plane, and open the doors of the presidential residence to the people, just as Lázaro Cárdenas, one of his declared role models, did 80 years ago. “A government that does not act justly is no different from a band of brigands, a set of men dedicated to plunder and pillage”—proclaimed AMLO in public squares throughout the country, paraphrasing Tolstoy.

In speaking of a full-blown crisis of political authority, rooted in outright moral bankruptcy, his campaign struck the right note. Against a backdrop of widespread insecurity, war-like levels of violence, ingrained venality, and prevalent opportunism, a morally charged discourse (evocative of religious themes of pardon, mutual love, and salvation) resonated deeply. In the face of complex social ills, AMLO raised a simple rhetorical question: what else could be expected under such type of political rule, if not rampant individualism, chronic violence, persisting inequalities, and an erosion of society’s own moral reflexes? With the principled nature of his cause beyond doubt, this time his (over)simplifications found no effective counterweight, the very terms of his political worldview unchallenged. Even inadvertently, AMLO’s political vocabulary and catch phrases became dominant in the public sphere, employed by supporters and detractors alike as the proper means to grasp the Mexican reality. Whatever the topic at hand, he was always the inevitable referent.

On election day, new votes flowed en masse toward his cause, especially from the PRI, in a possibly durable realignment. To complement its success in federal races and the presidency, MORENA’s coalition (which included the leftist Labor Party (PT) and Social Encounter Party (PES), a small socially conservative party tied to evangelical churches) captured five of nine governorships, including Mexico City, and the majority in 19 of the 26 local legislatures in contest. In all, there has been a massive reallocation of political power away from the traditional parties, most noticeably the PRI, now in control of fewer state- and local-level offices than ever before and relegated to a distant third place.

PAN and PRI retain the majority of state governments, a potentially important counterweight and, in any event, a relevant dimension of the exercise of power in Mexico’s federal system. With their parties embarrassingly defeated and national institutions decidedly in the hands of the left, however, most governors rushed to express outright willingness to collaborate with the popular president-elect, raising fears of a revival of the ceremonial presidentialism of old days.

Implications for Democracy

The obvious implication of MORENA’s landslide victory is that political power will be more concentrated than ever before in Mexican democracy. Voters have granted the president enough political and legislative resources to act decisively. The combination of a popular president possessing an overwhelming democratic mandate alongside a politically diminished, discredited opposition is unprecedented for the country. The three large parties that structured competition for the past three decades are undoubtedly wounded. Their disrepute opens opportunities for new alignments and polarities, also leading to greater personalization of politics. Rather than causing it, the election outcome reflects this readjustment in public sentiment and political representation, but also possibly reinforces it.

Given that institutionalized party systems grant predictability to political contestation and the democratic game, the erosion of the traditional parties inevitably increases uncertainty about the future. The political space is now more unstructured, with MORENA emerging as the new reference point, the center of gravity of the political system, possibly even a hard-to-defeat electoral force. With the PRI’s brand seriously devalued (and its resources greatly diminished), regional elites and political hopefuls might seek refuge under MORENA’s wing. Whether MORENA can transition from a highly personalistic vehicle into an institutionalized party that transcends its charismatic founder, however, remains to be seen. Further decomposition of the party system would not augur well for democracy, but the PAN and other smaller opposition parties might find a way to regroup and channel genuine anti-AMLO sentiments in the electorate.

In one important respect, however, the party system remains resilient. For at least the past two decades, the central fault line organizing Mexican politics concerned market reforms and the socioeconomic role of the state. That core logic has not been fundamentally upset, nor have the actors suddenly changed. AMLO, after all, is a well-known character, prone to launching populist appeals, perhaps of authoritarian tendencies, but forged in government and party life, his own trajectory paralleling that of the established partisan left—from the 1988 split of the PRI to the PRD and MORENA. Dissatisfaction and change can thus be said to have occurred within the existing representative system, perhaps a necessary shake-up and rebooting without descending into full-scale institutional breakdown. More virulent extra-institutional anti-elite reactions have certainly emerged elsewhere.

Instead, the left’s victory may aid the consolidation of Mexican democracy in at least three ways. First, the new distribution of power may yield healthy improvements in democratic representation and the political inclusion of disadvantaged social groups. Mexico’s high levels of inequality and socioeconomic exclusion contradict fundamental democratic principles of equality of opportunity, human dignity, and broad and effective access to basic rights. Despite minor improvements, the strategies and models followed in the past decades have been less than successful in moderating inequalities and spurring broad-based prosperity. In this key domain, a moderate government that promises a change of approach by “putting the poor first,” improving public service provision, and expanding social citizenship may help bring about a more inclusive democracy without compromising economic stability. Further, other important improvements in representation are already underway. For the first time, an equivalent number of men and women will hold seats in both the lower house and the Senate. AMLO’s proposed cabinet is also gender balanced, a major break with the past.

Second, in a Tocquevillian sense, there is arguably a democratizing, socially egalitarian element to AMLO’s victory itself. Making his way up to national politics from a politically peripheral southern state—one of his first public appointments was as a local delegate of the National Indigenist Institute—AMLO can credibly claim a social sensibility and proximity to ordinary people that has eluded most in the top echelons of the state since at least the 1990s. Uncomfortable in technical exchanges about policy and lacking the cosmopolitanism of his rivals, AMLO instead thrives in the public square, priding himself of knowing all of Mexico’s municipalities, having visited the most remote corners, and leading a humble middle-class life all throughout his career. In a context of high inequality and rigid social hierarchies, this kind of political leadership may cause discomfort among privileged sectors of society, but is in itself a meaningful egalitarian sign.

Third, all major existing political forces in the country have now won a fully competitive presidential election at least once. The claim of an intrinsically biased electoral game is now globally hard to sustain, and an orderly transition of power will follow this new round of democratic alternation. For the left, harshly constrained under the authoritarian regime and frustrated after consecutive defeats for the highest office, there is now a long-expected, democratically legitimate opportunity to pursue its agenda of social inclusion, as well as proof of the professionalism and neutrality of the country’s National Election Institute—indeed of the genuinely democratic character of electoral contests.

In all, therefore, Mexico may well be continuing its path toward the institutionalization of democratic pluralism and legitimate disagreement, rather than stepping into period of authoritarian reversal. Democracy, after all, does not involve the eradication of political contestation, but its channeling into an institutional framework where different political forces can coexist, peacefully compete for power, and when defeated, live to fight another day.

A potential democratic setback lies in the reemergence of a large, heterogeneous, but carefully balanced coalition around AMLO and his party not only capable of dominating the electoral field, but willing to resort to authoritarian tactics of intimidation and demonization of the opposition. The populist elements of AMLO’s campaign discourse can sometimes leave little room for legitimate political disagreement. Some thus see in MORENA unrestrained hegemonic ambitions. Others fear a plebiscitarian erosion of the liberal component of democracy under a charismatic populist leader with an unmediated relationship to his followers.

While history has not yet been written, the global political winds have certainly changed, now blowing against liberal democracy—including in the United States. The consolidation of either a new undemocratic hegemonic bloc in the image of the old PRI or authoritarian personalism, however, faces several roadblocks. First, unlike in the era of dominant-party rule, free and fair elections organized by constitutionally autonomous election authorities are a reality. Broad segments of civil society, the media, and the political elite (including AMLO himself) appear genuinely committed to maintaining that equilibrium. Traditional parties are damaged, but they will retain a significant presence in Congress and the states, from which in all likelihood they will attempt to strike back.

MORENA will have important resource and media advantages in the next election cycle (public funding and media airtime are allocated based on electoral performance), and the 2021 midterms will likely concentrate again on AMLO’s leadership, all the more so if his proposal of holding a concurrent referendum on his administration materializes. Yet, a failure to deliver on the high expectations (he has himself created) could backfire, fueling again democratic alternation. Lest it be forgotten, the electorate denied him the presidency twice before his recent victory, and before this election cycle, a majority of Mexicans remained unconvinced. More than offering uncritical support, voters have decided to give AMLO the benefit of the doubt. Just as his popularity soared, it could regress back.

Second, a norm of no presidential re-election is firmly rooted in Mexican politics since the revolutionary end of the Porfirian dictatorship (1876-1911), making a more than six-year tenure for AMLO unlikely. AMLO himself, in his fixation with Mexican history, appears committed to stepping down in 2024 at the latest. As of now, plebiscitarian instruments are not readily available in the constitution. The press, though seriously threatened by criminal violence and criminal-political networks at the local level (more than 40 journalists have been assassinated during Peña Nieto’s term), is diverse and frequently critical of the president and the political class. The top of Mexico’s private sector is powerful, well-organized, and politically active when its interests are at stake. All these elements guard against democratic breakdown. Further, aware of the concerns, AMLO has pledged to respect civil liberties and freedom of the press. His tenure as the mayor of Mexico City (2000-2005) does not support fears to the contrary.

Finally, AMLO may well succeed in holding together his heterogeneous coalition by broadly distributing opportunities and power resources. But managing political ambitions over the longer term requires an institutionalized party, which may eventually constrain the leader himself. It is unclear whether MORENA will congeal into one. Preventing internal dissension and limiting critical voices will also become more difficult once policy choices start to be made, the new administration confronts the real institutional limitations of the Mexican state apparatus, and enthusiasm eases off. The diversity of his own coalition may prompt democratic moderation. A competent cabinet, which AMLO announced in advance to signal sound judgement, is likely to produce a similar effect. Though the new administration will not take office until December 1 and changes are possible, AMLO’s proposed cabinet is generally formed by personalities with distinguished careers in their fields, including a former Supreme Court justice and a respected economist (who managed Mexico City’s treasury orthodoxly from 2000 to 2003) for the important Ministries of the Interior and Finance, respectively.

Economic Nationalism, Macroeconomic Orthodoxy, and Social Spending

Unwilling to alienate any of the diverse segments of society critical of the status quo, during the campaign, AMLO’s program stayed at a high level of abstraction, leaving ample room for interpretation and flexibility in policy choices. Still, basic parameters are relatively clear, pointing to a pragmatic government that will focus on rationalizing public administration, improving everyday services, and redirecting spending, in order to expand social programs and stimulate the domestic market.

Whether eradicating frivolous spending and leading an efficient, austere government is enough to deliver on promises of an expanded socioeconomic role of the state remains a legitimate question. Significant opportunities undoubtedly exist for more efficient and redistributive public spending, and his administration is likely to free-up resources by slashing salaries and job benefits in higher levels of the bureaucracy and, especially, paying close attention to government contracts. Still, Mexico spends (and taxes) considerably less than developed countries and other upper middle-income market economies, and less than what is necessary to enforce citizenship rights.

Yet, AMLO has repeatedly expressed an outright hawkish approach to fiscal policy, increasing investor confidence but inevitably placing limits on what he can accomplish. Since the beginning of the campaign, he renounced any renegotiation of the fiscal pact. Unambiguously, he promised not to raise taxes all throughout his administration (though considerable room exists for reducing tax evasion). Further, he remains an overt critic of fiscal deficits and has pledged to fully reverse the increase observed under Peña Nieto, along with respecting the autonomy of the central bank.

The likely outcome is thus a government with a more nationalistic approach to economic and trade policy, signaling independence from business interests but committed to macroeconomic orthodoxy, operating through legal channels, and respectful of private property rights. Among other measures, the incoming government has voiced its intention to expand access to higher education, increase subsidies for small-scale farmers to achieve domestic food-sufficiency, launch several infrastructure projects in Mexico’s less-developed southern states in collaboration with the private sector, and reduce the country’s energy dependence on the United States. In the symbolically charged area of energy reform, ambiguity remains, but pragmatic steps to ensure favorable deals for the state and fair domestic returns to the exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth are a more likely course than any outright assault on private investments.

Yet, less clear policy definitions exist regarding public security, a critical area given the long and acute crisis of violence and human rights. In the broadest terms, progressive segments of AMLO’s coalition have floated proposals of amnesty for non-violent drug crimes, transitional justice mechanisms, and a piecemeal retreat of the military from the streets back to the barracks. During the campaign, AMLO emphasized the importance of targeting the economic, labor, and social conditions that make criminality an attractive (or even the only) channel of social mobility, perhaps an obvious but persistent collective deficit. A careful reorientation of policy away from the militaristic approach that has dominated the response of the Mexican state to crime and violence over the past decade is more than warranted, but to date proposals remain imprecise. Sudden change, however, is unlikely, as the administration is assured to face tough choices in conciliating urgent popular demands for security with structural, long-term shortcomings in civilian security and justice institutions.

Pragmatism will also dominate foreign policy, including the strategic relationship with the United States. AMLO’s decidedly inward-looking approach to politics rehabilitates old principles of “national self-determination” and “no intervention” in the domestic affairs of other countries, which governed Mexico’s foreign policy during the PRI’s heyday. Put shortly, avoiding enmities and embroilment in international disputes, letting international politics run its course, and maintaining flexibility to adapt to existing circumstances. Anti-Mexicanism and erratic behavior from the U.S. government will likely elicit public assertions of national sovereignty and calls for respect, yet remaining open to negotiation in mutual advantage. Once a fierce critic of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for instance, in the contemporary context, AMLO has voiced his willingness to reach a deal that safeguards Mexico’s interests.

More than a radical ideological turn, then, AMLO’s government record, cabinet appointments, and announced measures are predictive of a pragmatic government using its power to mediate between different social interests, while satisfying popular demands for redistributive spending and public services. During, his tenure as a mayor of Mexico City, for instance, AMLO combined unconditional, universal monetary transfers to the elderly (later adopted by the federal government) with active collaboration with the private sector in urban renewal projects. While not shy about deploying available executive powers and dominating the public agenda, an overall pragmatic and moderate government is to be expected.

The greatest challenge confronting the president-elect lie in the big expectations he has himself cultivated. A champion of modesty in his private life, AMLO is not shy about his titanic public ambitions. As the very slogan of his campaign illustrates, he does not hesitate to situate his movement and own person in the great arch of Mexican History. After independence, the 19th-century Liberal Reform that separated church and state, and the Mexican Revolution, his peaceful ascent to power is set to represent “The Fourth Transformation” of the country’s public life. A more equitable and peaceful liberal democracy is not as ambitious a slogan nor an assured outcome, but would be good enough.