Pedro Kumamoto. (Photo: Cuartoscuro). All rights reserved. This article is a product of the partnership between SinEmbargo and democraciaAbierta. Read the original text here.
"We are in the worst of all possible worlds: we are giving away a lot of resources, the parties do not represent us, people do not participate and they tell us that we must keep things as they stand. I think that's not right." Thus speaks Pedro Kumamoto, a member of the Wikipolítica movement, the first independent deputy to win an election for a seat in the Congress of the State of Jalisco, with more votes than any political party.
But in San Lázaro Palace in Mexico City, home of the Mexican Congress, the project is being stopped by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its allies. The PRI Whip, César Camacho Quiroz, claims that his party has its own proposal which would generate greater savings in public money. To Kumamoto, however, this is only pretend play and challenges him to stop offering “word tacos” and to put forward his proposal.
"What they have to propose does not entail fundamental changes, a change in the system, in the political and economic development model. So, what ends up happening is that people get angry with the political class we have. The situation will improve when parties and the political class are completely replaced and those who have done private business with public institutions are gone", says Kumamoto.
The amount of money can be reduced in the future to less than a half if the Congress of the Union were to endorse the initiative known as #SinVotoNoHayDinero.
The National Electoral Institute (INE) sanctioned the ruling that will allow Mexican political parties to receive 6.78 billion pesos from the federal government for election expenses in 2018. To this should be added the sums granted by local institutions. This huge funding has been strongly criticized by social organizations, the media and even the Archdiocese of Mexico.
The amount of money can be reduced in the future to less than a half if the Congress of the Union were to endorse the initiative known as #SinVotoNoHayDinero (#NoVoteNoMoney). Its main promoter asserts, however, that due to a lack of "political will" on the part of the PRI, Social Encounter (PES), New Alliance (Panal) and Ecology Green of México (PVEM), the project was unable to go ahead last April at the federal level: they disrupted the session, so that it could not be discussed at the Constitutional Points Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, where it has been frozen since January.
But the initiative acquired again a high profile after the Nation’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) ruled that the amendments to Article 13 of the Constitution of Jalisco, which had been challenged by the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) , Panal and PVEM at the local level, were constitutional. Broadly speaking, these parties’ disagreement was motivated by the change in the formula for calculating the funding, which reduces significantly the money local political organizations will receive.
The funds currently handed over to political parties are calculated by multiplying the electoral roll (people who have at some point in time registered as voters) by 60% of a so-called Unit of Measure and Update (47.476 pesos). The proposal to be considered by the Chamber of Deputies and the legal amendment that will be applied in Jalisco changes this formula so that, instead of multiplying the electoral roll, 65% of the Unit of Measure and Update will be multiplied by the number of valid votes polled (total votes, less null and blank votes).
"What we are pursuing with #SinVotoNoHayDinero is for people to be able to assess, we do not encourage them not to vote".
The SCJN ruling on #SinVotoNoHayDinero has not been viewed favourably by some, who have insistently pointed out that it will boost voter abstention and could lead to parties seeking illegal funding.
"What we are pursuing with #SinVotoNoHayDinero is for people to be able to assess, we do not encourage them not to vote. We think it's important that people go out to vote, but definitely what happens today is that if someone disagrees with the established parties, he or she has no way, nor any kind of incentive to punish them", Kumamoto says. In Mexico, the level of voter turnout is low: around 50%. Kumamoto points out that in Chile, Colombia and Brazil, where they have a funding mechanism which is similar to the one that will be in operation in his home state, "voter participation is much higher”.
At the end of August, PRI Whip César Camacho Quiroz said that his party is open to discuss Kumamoto’s proposal and pointed out that they have a proposal of their own that will reduce even further the resources devoted to funding political organizations. But for the representative from Jalisco, the government party is only putting forward proposals because it is fully aware that changes are no longer possible now. "Sadly, the PRI is a party characterized by its huge demagoguery and for playing the fool. This is precisely what the PRI, the PVEM, Social Encounter and New Alliance were aiming at when they prevented this initiative from being voted on in April, which was the last deadline for its approval so that it could come into force in 2018".
The PRI and its allies could kill #SinVotoNoHayDinero at the Constitutional Points Commission and thereby prevent it from reaching the House Floor, but they do not do so "because of the political cost" it would entail, says Kumamoto.
Kumamoto points out that in Chile, Colombia and Brazil, where they have a similar funding mechanism, "voter participation is much higher”.
But the SCJN ruling boosted the citizens' initiative, set a precedent and could lead to its progress in the states where it has already been presented: Querétaro, Puebla, Durango and Michoacán. Kumamoto is optimistic, even though he acknowledges the fact that the parties’ representatives could block it: “But it is just possible that what happened in Jalisco could happen again, that the citizens’ pressure is so great, that they would have no choice but to pass it".
Not only that: Kumamoto says that the network behind #SinVotoNoHayDinero is already operating in 23 states and, most importantly, that the initiative is actively supported by citizens: "We are very pleased to see the pressure grow through telephone, social media, through different means. It helps us to tell the country, and especially legislators, why it is important to push this initiative forward".