The law and the loophole

Verónica OrtizBy Verónica Ortiz O.*

There is a popular saying in Mexico that whoever makes the law makes the loophole. Sadly, in times of political campaigns the saying proves right.

To the fiery speeches, reproaches and disqualifications common to electoral races we have to add the wear caused by the contending parties looking for the loopholes and trying to break the laws they previously approved.

Take this election for example. Barely two weeks into federal campaigns, there are already political parties repeatedly sanctioned, authorities dubbed as partial and censored, even voters demanding to withdraw a party´s registry.

Regardless of these complaints and demands being justified or not, the truth is that the vicious circle of Mexican politics keeps prevailing:

  1. Parties agreeing on a complex and restrictive legislation, which they –and their candidates- will unrepentantly ignore during campaigns.
  2. Parties and candidates then turn on the elections authority and blame it for being incapable of enforcing the burdensome duties and regulations imposed on it.
  3. Defeated candidates systematically contesting electoral results, never willing to concede to the victory of opponents.
  4. Courts dismissing the above allegations and bitter losers consequently threatening to disrupt institutional order.
  5. Parties –and winners!- then compromising to settle grievances with a new electoral reform (which will be more restrictive than the previous one and include the sacking of the referee).
  6. Repeat numbers 1 to 5.

It would be funny were it not pathetic. It seems that politicians in Mexico are not betting to improve the democratic system when they negotiate electoral reforms. They only seek revenge of campaign offenses and personal defeats, while they blame the elections referee for not punishing their opponents hard enough during the race.

That is why it is worrisome that those who make the law are the first to look for loopholes. What happens in the electoral arena will set a negative precedent for the transparency and anti-corruption legislation in process of approval by federal and state Congresses.

When candidates contending these midterm elections are reluctant to publicize their assets, revenues and potential conflicts of interest, it seems fair to wonder how long it will take for such new legislation to become irrelevant.

As economist and academic Isaac Katz puts it, “In Mexico complying with the law is considered optional, like a suggestion.” This is serious because it doesn´t matter how many pieces of legislation are produced, or how good they are on paper. The most perfect law will be useless if it cannot be enforced.

So, as long as everyone in Mexico does not feel equally compelled to abide by the law, we will keep repeating the vicious circle and deepening the democratic disenchantment.

* Lawyer and political analyst. Journalist in the newspaper El Economista and TV presenter in Canal del Congreso and AprendeTV in Mexico.

@veronicaortizo

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