Consolidation of Mexican Democracy - Democracy Essay Example
Consolidation of Mexican Democracy
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Mexico is a federal republic in the North American continent having a population of 106 million. It consists of 31 states and has a bicameral legislature. Mexico is headed by a president who is elected by the public (U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2006).
The formal name of Mexico is the United Mexican States or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish. In the Western Hemisphere, Mexico is the fifth largest country and is abundant in resources like natural gas and petroleum. Its economy is one of the fifteen largest economies in the world. Mexico has been endeavoring to improve and bring its economy up to date with the rest of the world; but those efforts have been hindered due to the inhospitable Mexican countryside, scarcity of arable land, an exploding population and a several economic crises. Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and is counted amongst some of the principal cities of the world (Mexico, 2007).
Theoretically, Mexico’s political model resembles the political model of the United States. The judiciary, legislature and executive are the three branches of Mexican government (Randall, 2006. P. 364). The executive branch dominates the other branches of government and the result is a political system that conforms to the directions of its president. The PRI or Institutional Revolutionary Party, a government controlled party; was the only political party that had any significant influence on the politics and decision making process, during the major period of the previous century (Hauss, P. 478). This party was established in the year 1929, and most of the national political offices were controlled by this party. It continued to win all the senate seats, until 1988 and was first in the race for the governor’s post until 1989. In 2000, the PRI candidate was defeated by Vicente Fox, who belonged to the PAN or National Action Party; and the PRI part lost the presidency (Mexico, 2007).
As the executive branch dominates the legislative and judicial branches, the lobbyists and the interest groups have failed to evolve in Mexico. If any group or individual wishes to modify the government’s policy, then they have to do this only through the executive branch (Mexico, 2007).
Even though Mexico has achieved much on the economic front, it still faces many impediments in engendering further economic development. During the 19th century, economic growth was scanty, due to political instability. Mexico’s economic development underwent a further decline, during the second decade of the 20th century, because of the Mexican Revolution, which proved to be a major social upheaval. Until the time of World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, Mexico’s economy was mainly based on agriculture (Mexico, 2007).
Subsequent, to World War II, its economy has principally been based on exports to other countries and light manufacturing. It occupies a place amongst the ten richest countries of the world, due to its huge reserves of petroleum. Mexico is a major exporter of not only crude oil but also silver, which is an important mineral. It is one of the major producers of silver. Petroleum had controlled its economy to a great extent during 1960s and 1970s. However, subsequent regimes have sought to engender diversity in the economy. The current chief areas of the Mexican economy are manufacturing, tourism and assembling industries (Mexico, 2007).
Mexican history is a mélange of numerous cultural, ethnic and political influences. It is the result of a number of native civilizations and major influences like that of the Spanish colonial rule. In addition, Mexico has a significant African heritage that resulted from the slave trade of the early colonial era. After Mexico became an independent nation, it faced a large amount of violence and several civil wars. These include interference of Europe and a long-lasting internal tyranny. This internal tyranny led to the Mexican Revolution, which lasted from 1910 to 1920. The Mexican Revolution constitutes the most important event of 20th century Mexican history, and it influenced Mexican politics and culture for many years (Mexico, 2007).
Mexico achieved a strong political system from this era that has survived from 1929 to the present. This constitutes a remarkable achievement, which few governments have accomplished. The presence of a strong president, at the helm of affairs, and a strong executive branch, which have controlled Mexico’s political system; have caused considerable damage to the judicial and legislative branches of the government. A single party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party has dominated the national elective offices and controlled the government for the major period of the 20th century. The PRI was defeated for the first time in 2000 (Mexico, 2007).
Mexico’s transformation into a democracy is being tested by the intense political rivalry between the opposing political parties. The lower house of congress had overwhelmingly voted in favor of depriving the legal immunity of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City, on the 7th of April 2005; and this served to further intensify this crisis. He had violated procedure to a minor extent. Some of the officials in his administration had refused to comply with a court order requiring them to discontinue the construction of a section of road that was on the way towards a hospital. The mayor was accused of having allowed his officials to do so. The voting of congress is of great importance, because it makes Obrador liable to prosecution, which would have disqualified his candidature, as the leftist PRD or Partido de la Revolución Democrática candidate, for the July 2006 presidential elections (Quezada, 2005).
Mexico City represents a clash between wealth and poverty. In addition, there are many more such contrasts, for instance between the noble and the ignoble, ignorant and wise, unstable and stable, good and bad. The main components of this social conflict can be understood after spending just a few hours in this beleaguered city (Quezada, 2005).
The democratic transition of Mexico originated in Mexico City. This transition commenced as a student movement in 1968 and escalated into very strong protests against the masquerade that had resulted in Carlos Salinas de Gortari becoming the president in 1988. This transition ended in 1990, due to the implementation of a free and reliable voting system (Quezada, 2005).
At present the PRD controls Mexico’s capital. In a manner analogous to all other Latin American countries, Mexico is looking for ways to substitute the neo-liberal politics that existed in 1980s and 1990s. Save for a few exceptions, the rules pertaining to the market economics and liberal democracy, have been universally accepted. The effect of the policies relating to structural adjustment that were decreed by Washington in the 1980s and the international financial system has resulted in significant discontent (Quezada, 2005).
A majority of Mexican citizens have supported Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the social policies, which his government had implemented, and his communication skills, even if those policies had contained some inconsistencies and limitations. It is quite evident that he would undoubtedly be the president, if elections were to be held at the present moment (Quezada, 2005).
The Partido Revolucionario Institucional has controlled Mexico for seventy years, due to the infamous electoral impostures that existed in the 20th century. Nevertheless, Vicente Fox, the Partido Acción Nacional candidate managed to defeat the PRI candidate and take over the presidency in 2000 (Quezada, 2005).
However, after taking control of the government, Fox lost his passion for reformation and allied himself with the previous regime. This resulted in the curtailment and ultimately the end of the development of democracy in Mexico (Quezada, 2005).
Lately, Fox along with the PAN and the PRI employed the municipal land dispute to utilize the congressional vote to withdraw legal immunity on Obrador and thereby preclude him from the 2006 presidential race. However, Obrador is very popular and the widespread protests against his impeachment, forced Santiago Creel, the interior minister, and Rubén Aguilar, presidential spokesman to state that the government may have to arrive at a compromise with this well-liked mayor (Quezada, 2005).
During the dictatorial era of Mexico, the president had the right to select the person who was to succeed. In the present day Mexico, which aspires to become a democratic nation, the right wing parties are mounting undemocratic attacks against the left wing parties, in order to weaken the free and fair electoral democratic system (Quezada, 2005).
Approximately, seventy percent of Mexicans including the most intellectual of Mexicans condemn the impeachment process of Obrador. They even believe that, Fox, the PAN and the PRI have deceived democracy and converted the civic conflict between left and right into a dangerous feud, under the garb of legality. The outcome of these moves, in the other areas, has largely remained inestimable. For the time being, macroeconomic indicators have retained their strong showing, because of the favorable relations between the US and Mexico (Quezada, 2005).
Obrador’s issue has been placed in the hands of the court, which is duty bound to pronounce the right judgment. Just like in the past, when the people had usually mistrusted Mexico’s institutions and voting system; present day Mexican citizens are suspecting the unbiased nature of the judges (Quezada, 2005).
The Mexican democratic change transpired in seclusion. Mexico’s domestic social disputes had remained unknown to the outside world, prior to the large scale repression of 1968 and the 1988 fraudulent elections. The Mexican dictatorial regime was successful in diverting the attention of liberal governments, by adopting a liberal foreign policy. European countries ignored the repression in Mexico and argued that US interests were dependent on Mexican cooperation, and that stability on its southern border with Mexico was very important for its security (Quezada, 2005).
As of 2005, Mexico had become a democratic nation. The campaign against Andrés Manuel López Obrador was criticized by the international media, irrespective of differences in ideology or geographical location. The elements of the clash that suspected the operation of the basic rules of the democracy were recognized by the media. This conflict originated from the disloyalty of a few towards democratic rules, and not from the candidacy of Obrador. Mexico’s judicial power and the international community are responsible for rejuvenating democratic rules that include the social order and prevent a return to the past. As such Mexican democracy is clearly in jeopardy (Quezada, 2005).
President Vicente Fox brought about several improvements, in order to bring democracy into Mexico. Even though he will be remembered for long in this context, the fact remains that he will also be remembered for the inept manner adopted by him. The government audits commenced by Fox in the early years of his presidency were worthy of praise; and every few weeks a report had emerged regarding the lacunae in the accounts of some government department or the other (Emmond, 2005).
The Mexican legal system has many defects, and as a consequence, several defendants are not called personally to account. As audits do not encourage future misappropriation, there is still progress. In the absence of these audits, no one would have known about the missing funds. Subsequent to the year 2000 presidential transition, it could be concluded that the reprehensible practice of the current president selecting his successor had been completely discarded. The government tried to use a legal technicality on the mayor, a leftist from PRD, whereby he was rendered ineligible for the candidacy, under the cover of following the rule of law. The government abstained from imposing this tenet, only under extreme pressure, as Obrador was supported by millions of demonstrators (Emmond, 2005).
The press has finally achieved freedom; hence, the media is free to speak anything it likes about the government. These events establish a learning process for the politicians who have never directly experienced democracy until the year 2000.It was understood that the things that were done under the old method were a misuse of power in a democracy. Fox agreed in his May Day address that democratic transition will take some time to get used to as it introduces a number of difficulties. It should be accepted that democracy and transparency have made important profits since 2000. The president and his cabinet definitely have to learn some of the most arduous lessons (Emmond, 2005).
The first round of political reforms in Mexico had been successfully completed. There is a need to initiate the second round of the political reforms. This will ensure the well being of democracy in Mexico. In the first stage of reforms, the electoral reforms had been given priority which gave the Mexicans an opportunity to demonstrate their requirements through the electoral process. Accordingly, they had elected their preferred candidates to act on their behalf (Ugalde, 2001).
The immediate need was to promote the efficiency in the government by consolidating democracy and by achieving the voice of the majority, by means of voting. Mere achievement of plurality and supremacy of the congress over decision making process would not create an effective and capable government. Although congress had gained supremacy over policy making procedure, there was no supporting institutional system to make use of this supremacy in establishing an effective judicial system. Furthermore, Congress has to establish certain norms in order to become more professional in its approach, and in order to become an active ingredient of national politics. This is because, pluralism had become a rule, which cannot be circumvented (Ugalde, 2001).
Article 59 of the Mexican Constitution has to be immediately amended in order to enable the reelection of deputies and senators. There must be a clear definition and limitation on the term of elected legislators. Since the year 1993, legislators have been barred from an immediate re election. Hence, they are prevented from contesting in re elections. This rule does not display any professionalism and it is confined within Congress. There are certain rules in the Constitution that govern the relations of the executive and legislature. These rules have to be immediately changed so as to make them encourage and promote cooperation between these two and avoid any conflict of opinion (Article 59, Mexican Constitution, 1917).
In the past the executive branch had enjoyed unlimited control and authority over political matters. During that time these rules were drafted to control and restrict Congress in some issues. These rules are not suitable for the current times and they render the institutional framework incapable, while dealing with the new plurality in the Congress. Moreover, there is an urgent need to provide adequate staff members to assist the deputies and they must also be provided with extra resources (Ugalde, 2001).
In general, a Mexican legislator will be provided with three or four staff members; however, this size of staff would not be sufficient for a legislator to sort out things relating to his daily routine and to meet his responsibilities and other duties. Moreover, the chambers of legislators must be equipped with the latest communication systems and there is a genuine need for better and faster access to information. This would facilitate the legislator to respond to his obligations immediately (Ugalde, 2001).
In the past, the political party PRI had more votes and a majority in the Congress. There were accusations against the PRI of having distorted the congressional supervision efforts. However, it is a fact of Mexican politics that any party that had enjoyed uninterrupted control and authority over the presidency and the Congress for a prolonged period of time, would have to bear such criticisms and accusations. At this juncture, it is required to reform the political scenario so as to establish a system of checks and balances similar to that of the United States, irrespective of the party that has full control over the presidency or the Congress or both. More importantly, the Mexican Congress must take an active part in consolidating democracy in Mexico, immediately, after reforms to the electoral system have been made (Ugalde, 2001).
Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party or PAN emerged victorious in the 2006 presidential election with a majority that was less than one percent over his closest competitor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party or PRD. Calderon assumed the office of president amidst disturbing political differences between these two parties. He faced extreme opposition to his success in the elections, from the supporters of Obrador, who contested the legitimacy of his victory in the election. Although Mexico is one of the strongest democratic nations in Latin America, the present political scenario demonstrates that there should be electoral reforms in order to face the challenges in the event of an unclear majority being obtained by a candidate who wins in the election. The outcome of the election also established the fact that the new government will have to counter many challenges and difficult situations arising out of political strife (Dresser, Ward, & Selee, 2006).
Politics is no longer a cake walk in present day Mexico. Consolidation of democracy is only possible through electoral reforms. Electoral watchdog groups such as Alianza Civica claim that the existing electoral controls are not stringent enough. There is a need to enforce stringent controls over the electoral procedures. In addition, Mexico is intensifying its military force under the guise of strengthening its self defense. This militarization poses a serious threat to the well being of democracy. In Southeast Mexico, army, police and paramilitary forces have been engaged to forcefully suppress rebellions. There have been incidents of serious violation of human rights and infringements of the rule of law. People in many areas have been continuously under the grip of fear, due to armed conflicts. These factors definitely serve to weaken the spirit of democracy in Mexico (Threats to Democracy, 2007).
Democracy in Mexico is hindered by a number of impediments. Some of these are lack of unbiased media access, questionable sources of election campaign resources and the utilization of the resources of the government in election campaigns. Such measures constitute the subtler forms of compromising free and fair elections. It is essential to monitor and prevent such insidious measures, if democracy is to flourish in Mexico (Threats to Democracy, 2007).
List of References
Article 59, Mexican Constitution. (1917).
Dresser, D., Ward, P., & Selee, A. (2006, September 15). Whither Mexican Democracy? An Analysis of the 2006 Elections and the Way Forward . Retrieved April 24, 2008, from http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=events.event_summary&event_id=201328
Emmond, K. (2005, May 9). Mexican democracy lurches forward under Fox. Retrieved April 24, 2008, from Mexidata.Info: http://www.mexidata.info/id479.html
Hauss, C. (P. 478). Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges. Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN: 0534590535.
Mexico. (2007). Retrieved April 24, 2008, from Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761576758_17/Mexico.html#howtocite
Quezada, S. A. (2005, April 21). Mexican democracy in peril. Retrieved April 24, 2008, from openDemocracy: http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/2443
Randall, L. (2006. P. 364). Changing Structure of Mexico: Political, Social, and Economic Prospects . M.E. Sharpe Mexico. ISBN: 0765614049.
Threats to Democracy. (2007, JUly 9). Retrieved April 24, 2008, from http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/dem/threats.html
Threats to Democracy. (2007, July 9). Retrieved April 24, 2008, from Global Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/dem/threats.html
U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. (2006, March 8). Mexico. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Retrieved April 24, 2008, from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/62736.htm
Ugalde, L. C. (2001, Fall). Mexico in Transition. Retrieved April 24, 2008, from David Rockfeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University: http://www.drclas.harvard.edu/revista/articles/view/73