Mexican political institutions
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Mexican Political Institutions. Government Institutions. Mexico is a federal republic, though state and local governments have little independent power and few resources Executive branch has held majority of the power historically

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Government institutions
Government Institutions

  • Mexico is a federal republic, though state and local governments have little independent power and few resources

  • Executive branch has held majority of the power historically

  • Legislative & Judicial branch have traditionally followed the executive’s lead, rubber-stamping most presidential decisions

Executive branch
Executive Branch

  • Center of policy-making

  • Sexenio: non-renewable six-year term (Under PRI similar to dictator)

  • President’s powers under PRI system:

    • Selected successor

    • Appointed officials to all positions of power in the government

    • Named PRI candidates for other public offices

  • Until mid-1970s Mexican presidents were above criticism and people revered them as symbols of national progress and well-being

    • Managed huge patronage system (camarillas)

    • Control over “rubber-stamp” Congress

Changes in the executive branch
Changes in the Executive Branch

  • President Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) –relinquished a number of informal powers, including naming the PRI candidate for the 2000 election

  • President Fox won the presidency in a time of transition

    • President still viewed as all powerful, but blamed for shortcomings

    • Harder for Fox to accomplish political goals without strong party support in the post-PRI Congress


  • About 1.5 million people employed by federal government (Most in Mexico City)

  • High & middle level officials have a good deal of power

  • Under PRI, corruption and bribes quite common amongst officials in the bureaucracy

  • Parastatal Sector – companies owned or controlled by the state

    • PEMEX (state-owned petroleum company)

    • After 1980’s oil bust, reforms cut the number of parastatals, and many are now privately owned

    • President Fox tried unsuccessfully to privatize PEMEX


  • Bicameral

    • Chamber of Deputies (500 members)

      • 300 deputies from single-member districts (plurality)

      • 200 deputies chosen by proportional representation

    • Senate (128 members)

      • 3 senators from each of the 31 states & the federal district (96)

      • Remaining 32 selected by proportional representation

  • All legislators directly elected

  • Until 1980s legislature remained under strict control of the president

Women s role in the legislature
Women’s Role in the Legislature

  • Women in both houses has risen significantly since 1996 election law required parties to sponsor female candidates

    • Parties must run at least 30% female candidates for proportional representation and single-member district elections

    • 113 of 500 deputies in Chamber are female

    • 20 of 128 Senators are also female


  • Mexico does not have an independent judiciary or judicial review system

  • Most laws are federal, limiting the authority of state courts

  • Historically has been controlled by the executive branch

Supreme court
Supreme Court

  • On paper has judicial review, but it never overrules important government policy or actions

  • Judges appointed for life, but in practice resigned at the beginning of each sexenio

  • President Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) attempted to strengthen courts by emphasizing the rule of law, he refused to interfere with court judgments and President Fox continued this policy


  • Dominated Mexican political life into the early 20th century

  • PRI dramatically cut back the political power of generals

  • Strong ties between military officers and drug barons

    • Military heavily involved in drug-enforcement

    • Patron-client system of favors and loyalty has led some military officers to accept money from drug lords in return for allegiance and security

Linkage institutions
Linkage Institutions

  • Political parties, interest groups, and media all link Mexican citizens to their government

  • During the PRI era all of this took place under the authority of the PRI party so a true civil society did not exist

  • As democratization began and civil society began to develop, these structures were already in place, so activating democracy was easier than it would have been otherwise

Political parties
Political Parties

  • Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)

  • National Action Party (PAN)

  • Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD)


  • In power from 1929-2000

  • Founded by coalition of elites led by President Calles

  • Originally, elites agreed to trade favors and pass around power between one another (Sexenio)

Structure of the pri
Structure of the PRI

  • Corporatist structure – interest groups woven into the structure of the party

    • Party has ultimate authority, but other voices heard by bringing interest groups under the umbrella of the party

    • Structure was not democratic, but allowed for more input into government than other types of authoritarianism

    • Particularly since Cardenas, peasant and labor organizations have been represented in the party and hold positions of responsibility

Structure of the pri1
Structure of the PRI

  • Patron-client system – party traditionally gets its support from rural areas where patron-client system is still in control

    • Patron-client system allowed the PRI to remain in control of Mexicans as long as majority of population was rural-based, this began to change in the late 1980s

Pan right of center
PAN (Right of Center)

  • Founded in 1939

  • Represents business interests opposed to centralization and anti-clericalism

  • PAN support strongest in the north

  • PAN generally considered PRI’s opposition on the Right

  • PAN candidate Vicente Fox won 2000 presidential election, Felipe Calderon won 2006 election

  • Platform:

    • Regional autonomy

    • Less government intervention in the economy

    • Clean & fair elections

    • Good rapport with Catholic Church

    • Support for private and religious education

Prd left of center
PRD (Left of Center)

  • PRD considered PRI’s opposition on the Left

  • PRD has been plagued by poor organization, lack of charismatic leadership, and most importantly the lack of an economic alternative to the market-oriented policies of the PRI & PAN

Elections and the prd
Elections and the PRD

  • Presidential candidate in 1988 & 1994 was Cuahtemoc Cardenas (son of Lazaro Cardenas)

    • He was ejected from the PRI for demanding reform that emphasized social justice and populism

    • In 1988 Cardenas won 31.1% of the official vote, and PRD captured 139 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (500 total)

    • Many believe had it been an honest election Cardenas would have won

  • Andres Lopez Obrador, former mayor of Mexico City, was the PRD candidate for president in the 2006 election. He lost by a slim margin to Calderon (PAN) and bitterly contested the election results.

Voter profiles
Voter Profiles

  • PRI – small town or rural, less educated, older, poorer

  • PAN – from the north, middle-class professional or business, urban, better educated (at least high school, some college), religious (or those less strict regarding separation of church & state)

  • PRD – younger, politically active, from the central states, some education, small town or urban

Election of 2000
Election of 2000

  • PAN candidate Vicente Fox won presidency (43% of the vote compared to 36% garnered for PRI candidate Francisco Labastida)

  • PAN captured 208 of 500 deputies in the lower house; PRI captured 209 deputy seats

  • PAN won 46 senate seats; PRI won 60 senate seats

  • New, competitive election system has encouraged coalitions to form to the right & left of the PRI

  • Split in votes has encouraged gridlock, phenomenon unknown to Mexico under the old PRI-controlled governments

  • Election of 2006 – closely contested election, won by PAN candidate Felipe Calderon by narrow margin over PRD candidate Andres Lopez Obrador

Interest groups popular movements
Interest Groups & Popular Movements

  • Corporatist structure allowed for accommodation of interest groups

    • Business Interests

    • Labor

    • Rural/Peasant Organizations – encouraged under PRI through the ejido system that granted land from the government to these organizations

    • Urban/Popular Movements


  • Part of the patron-client system under the PRI, with rewards and favors handed out in return for political support

  • Have become more independent as PRI-political structure has been reorganized

  • Many Mexicans have access to international newspapers, magazines, CNN and the BBC