In Sophocles' Antigone, the tyrant Creon remarks at one point that "these rigid spirits are the first to fall." Referring to the stubborn will of his neice, who insists on burying her brother despite Creon's prohibition against doing so, the prophecy warns that if Antigone cannot become flexible in her religious philosophy, she will meet a bitter end.
It would be well worth the while of the members of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to heed the warning of the poet now dead two millenia. The traditional party of Mexico for the past six decades, the PRI is proving too rigid in its effort to maintain political power in this month's presidential elections.
Last Wednesday, which was election day in Mexico, the PRI's presidential candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gotari, a Harvard educated economist and former Minister of Public Finance, announced his victory before a majority of the votes had been turned in.
The announcement of confidence in victory hid an uneasiness within the ruling party, which has long garnered 70 percent of the vote in elections--usually through bribes and electoral fraud. It was tentatively reported that Salinas had captured only 41.8 percent of the vote. Cuauthemoc Cardenas, the candidate of a leftist coalition, received 34.9 percent of the vote, and the right-wing National Action Party's Manuel Clouthier gained 16.4 percent of the population's favor.
Citing high voter turnout and computer breakdowns as problematic, the PRI-controlled Electoral Commission delayed reporting the accurate vote to the Mexican people.
The opposition party candidates were quick to criticize the PRI for rigging even such unfavorable electoral returns. Reports of ballot stuffing and payment for PRI votes led Cardenas to conduct an independent electoral survey which indicated the leftist nominee had actually led Mexico City, which contains one-fourth of the Mexican population, and three other states. But the PRI claims that the independent count is just a publicity move and has still not made a statement as to whether or not these figures are true.
By the same token, the government has refused to make evident the official electoral results. For the first time, however, it has conceeded a loss in a senatorial race. Cardenas' party will have representatives in the PRI-controlled Congressional body.
RIOTING and violence began to break out in Mexico when the official results were delayed, and the party which has maintained generally peaceful social relations in the country was forced to become flexible, and so it conceeded some senatorial seats. The PRI, however, will have to do more than assuage the Left with a minority of seats in the Congress it controls.
Not only have economic condition deteriorated under the PRI's current head, President Miguel de la Madrid, with real wages having fallen to levels not seen since the early 1970s and the foreign debt having climbed to an astronomical $108 billion, but the party has lost credibility as a result of the recent election confusion as well.
While candidates like Cardenas are proposing a renegotiation of the debt, the PRI is unwilling to take a strong stand on the issues that the vote shows concern many Mexicans. It will have to modify its policies if it wishes to survive.
The PRI has successfully endured this 1988 election, if only because its corrupt and fraudulent electoral tactics have enabled it once again to win. History has shown that the party which counts the votes is seldom a loser, but history is known to change. The PRI has proven that it can be somewhat flexible, but unless it lets down its rigid defense of power it will not last long.
The events of this most recent election have shown that the PRI's strong edifice is beginning to crack, and unless it can learn to be flexible, the party will, like Antigone, fall altogether.