The New Populists
The turmoil that wracked political establishments across Europe in 2017 (not to mention the U.S. in 2016) is now visiting emerging markets from Mexico to Malaysia, and the wave of poll booth surprises shows no signs of abating. Dominant political parties were shaken, if not cast aside, by popular disgust at their failure to deliver broad-based prosperity. The trend was most recently exemplified on Oct. 29, when a populist former army captain, Jair Bolsonaro, won Brazil’s presidential election and Germany’s pragmatic, centrist chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced a phased political exit. Nostalgic for Brazil’s dictatorship and dismissive of minorities, women, and democratic niceties, Bolsonaro will join a growing camp of populists when he takes office on Jan. 1, including the leaders of Ethiopia, Mexico, Malaysia, and South Africa. The cause of conventional government in emerging markets hasn’t been helped by a strong dollar and rising short-term U.S. interest rates, which suck away funds. Slowing growth in China is contributing to the tough environment for incumbents, too
Andrés Manuel López Obrador
President, Mexico ●
López Obrador won more than 50 percent of the vote in July, the first time in 30 years that a Mexican presidential candidate claimed a majority.
AMLO, as López Obrador is known, is only Mexico’s third president from outside the Institutional Revolutionary Party since the 1910-20 revolution. He campaigned against government corruption and the “mafia of power” in business, then beat back establishment challengers after the Mexican government, which worked to curb spending and stabilize the economy, couldn’t boost real wages. It’s unclear if the leftist firebrand will merely adjust Mexico’s modernization policy of the last quarter century—economic liberalization, fiscal discipline, and foreign trade and investment—or take a more statist path of renationalization and subsidies.
By Marc Champion
The Mazatlan Post