Politics of Mexico

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The 1917 Constitution of Mexico provides for a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Historically, the executive is the dominant branch, with power vested in the president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. Congress has played an increasingly important role since 1997 when opposition parties first formed a majority in the legislature. The president also legislates by executive decree in certain economic and financial fields, using powers delegated from the Congress. The president is elected by universal adult suffrage for a six-year term and may not hold office a second time. There is no vice president; in the event of the removal or death of the president, a provisional president is elected by the Congress.

Congress is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Consecutive re-election is prohibited. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and deputies serve three-year terms. The Senate's 128 seats are filled by a mixture of direct-election and proportional representation. In the lower chamber, 300 deputies are directly elected to represent single-member districts, and 200 are selected by a modified form of proportional representation from five electoral regions. The 200 proportional representation seats were created to help smaller parties gain access to the Chamber.

The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those involving major felonies. Under the constitution, trial and sentencing must be completed within 12 months of arrest for crimes that would carry at least a two-year sentence. In practice, the judicial system often does not meet this requirement. Trial is by judge, not jury, in most criminal cases. Defendants have a right to counsel, and public defenders are available. Other rights include defense against self-incrimination, the right to confront one's accusers, and the right to a public trial. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.

On July 2, 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada of the opposition "Alliance for Change" coalition, headed by the National Action Party (PAN), was elected president, in what are considered to have been the freest and fairest elections in Mexico's history. Fox began his six-year term on December 1, 2000. His victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) 71-year hold on the presidency.

The Mexican Congress is a plural institution that is playing an increasingly important role in Mexico's democratic transition. No single party holds an absolute majority in either house of Congress.


1 See also

Recent Elections

See: Mexican general election, 2000.

The July 2, 2000, elections marked the first time since the 1910-17 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government. Vicente Fox won the election with 43% of the vote, followed by PRI candidate Francisco Labastida with 36%, and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution Party) (PRD) with 17%. Despite some isolated incidents of irregularities and problems, there was no evidence of systematic attempts to manipulate the elections or their results, and critics concluded that the irregularities that occurred did not alter the outcome of the presidential vote. Civic organizations fielded more than 80,000 trained electoral observers, foreigners were invited to witness the process, and numerous independent "quick count" operations and exit polls validated the official vote tabulation.

Numerous electoral reforms implemented since 1989 aided in the opening of the Mexican political system, and opposition parties have made historic gains in elections at all levels. Many of the current electoral concerns have shifted from outright fraud to campaign fairness issues. During 1995-96 the political parties negotiated constitutional amendments to address these issues. Implementing legislation included major points of consensus that had been worked out with the opposition parties. The thrust of the new laws has public financing predominate over private contributions to political parties, tightens procedures for auditing the political parties, and strengthens the authority and independence of electoral institutions. The court system also was given greatly expanded authority to hear civil rights cases on electoral matters brought by individuals or groups. In short, the extensive reform efforts have "leveled the playing field" for the parties.

Even before the new electoral law was passed, opposition parties had obtained an increasing voice in Mexico's political system. A substantial number of candidates from opposition parties had won election to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. As a result of the 2000 elections, the Congress is more diverse than ever. In the Chamber, 209 seats belong to the PRI, 207 to the PAN, 52 to the PRD, 16 for the Green Party, and the remaining 16 are split among four smaller parties and two independents. In the 128-seat Senate, the upper house of Congress, the PRI still holds the most seats at 60, but the PAN holds 46, the PRD 15, the Greens 5, and two smaller parties each have one seat. Senators serve 6 years in office and Deputies 3 years; neither can be elected to consecutive terms.

Although the PRI no longer controls the Presidency, it remains a significant force in Mexican politics. In general, in state congressional and mayoral contests since July 2000, the PRI has fared better than the PAN. In the 2003 midterm elections, the PRI was practically wiped off the map in the Federal District – only one borough mayor (jefe delegacional) out of 16, and no first-past-the-post members of the city assembly – but it was able to recoup some significant losses in the provinces (most notably, the governorship of PAN-stronghold Nuevo León). It also remains the largest single party in both chambers of Congress.

The 2003 midterm elections also signaled a defeat for Fox and the PAN. Fox had pledged to bring Democracy and led the way towards prosperity, but the polls showed a lack of support. The PAN lost control of the Chamber of Deputies; perhaps more significantly, the fact that 59% percent of the electorate chose not to bother to cast their votes in the mid-terms indicates a growing disenchantment with what some believe is business-as-usual in Mexican politics.

Presidential candidates are gearing up for the 2006 election. The reform programs the candidates will need to address include recognition of human and labor rights, adequate support of public education, and improving public health and social security. Federal District Head of Government Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a possible PRD candidate, is the marked favorite in the polls to win the election over candidates proposed by the PAN and PRI.

Other reforms

Constitutional and legal changes have been adopted in recent years to improve the performance and accountability of the Supreme Court and the Office of the Attorney General and the administration of federal courts. The Supreme Court, relieved of administrative duties for lower courts, was given responsibilities for judicial review of certain categories of law and legislation. A variety of laws also was passed in 1995-96 to help control organized crime.

Failed Reforms

Fox has failed to keep promises with workers, labor unions and indigenous groups. The "20 commitments" he had endorsed during his campaign have fallen by the wayside. The program of labor reform instead supported the old Congress of Labor and Confederation of Mexican Workers, which many believe are corrupt. Another campaign promise was to fight for immigration reforms with the United States, but no progress has been made. The promise to deliver prosperity has also fallen short with Mexico's heavy integration with the United States, which has been suffering from a recession and an alleged jobless recovery. Businesses seeking still lower wages have begun to export jobs from Mexico to Vietnam and China, further adding to workers frustration and hardships. Even Fox's attempts to pass laws aimed at improving the lives of the indigenous population have failed. What laws were passed failed to gain support from the Zapatistas and other indigenous groups.

A major obstacle to reform is the pervasiveness of corruption throughout Mexico's government, society, and economy. Some analysts estimate that the illegal economic sector may make up about 25% of Mexico's GDP. Efforts to combat crime have been met by huge protests demanding that the government provide decent-paying legitimate jobs first. In 2004, some legitimate businesses (that is, the ones that had not fled) began to form self-help associations like the Alliance for a Legal Mexico.


An unresolved sociopolitical conflict still exists in the southernmost state of Chiapas. In January 1994, Zapatistas in the state of Chiapas briefly took arms against the government, protesting alleged oppression and governmental indifference to poverty. After 12 days of fighting, a cease-fire was negotiated that remains in effect. Since 1994 sporadic clashes have continued to occur between armed civilian groups, usually over disputed land claims.

As a presidential candidate, Fox promised to renew dialogue with the EZLN and address unresolved problems in the state. Following his inauguration, he ordered many troops out of Chiapas, dismantled roadblocks, closed military bases, and submitted revised peace accords to Congress. Nonetheless, Chiapas has the largest military presence of any other state of the country. In August 2001, the peace accords became law, after having been passed by Congress and ratified by more than half of the state legislatures. The EZLN however has denounced the laws passed, as they failed to address certain points of principle. This position is seen by some analysts as merely an attempt to prevent the EZLN's political presence and influence from being diluted. The dialog with the government comissionary has ceased, and no official contacts between the EZLN and the Government have occurred to date (early 2005). However, Fox legitimacy and other affairs have pushed the Chiapas situation far from the spotlight.

Numerous legal challenges to the accords have been filed, and the Fox Administration has on more than one occasion suggested that modifications may be necessary.

Country name

Conventional long form: United Mexican States
Conventional short form: Mexico
Local long form: Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Local short form: México

Other data

Data code: mx
Government type :Federal republic
Capital: Mexico City / Federal District (Spanish: Ciudad de México or México, DF.) The Federal District ("DF") is a special administrative area that serves as the seat of the federal government.

Administrative divisions

31 states (estados; singular, estado) and one federal district* (Distrito Federal).

See: States of Mexico, List of Mexican state governors.


16 September 1810 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 16 September (1810)


5 February 1917; see 1917 Constitution of Mexico

Legal system

Judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal and compulsory (but not enforced)

Executive branch

President Vicente Fox (since 1 December 2000). The president is both the chief of state and head of government


Cabinet appointed by the president with consent of the Senate

Secretary of Foreign Affairs: Jorge Castañeda (2000-2003), Luis Ernesto Derbez (since January 2003).
Secretary of Defence: Clemente Vega García
Secretary of Finance: Francisco Gil Díaz
Secretary of Education: Reyes Tamez


President elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 2 July 2000 (next to be held july 2006).

Legislative branch

Bicameral National Congress or Congreso de la Union consists of the Senate or Cámara de Senadores (128 seats; three-quarters are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms, and one quarter is allocated on the basis of each party's popular vote) and the Chamber of Deputies or Cámara de Diputados (500 seats; 300 members are directly elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms; remaining 200 members are allocated on the basis of each party's popular vote, also for three-year terms)


See Elections in Mexico for more recent information

election results

See Elections in Mexico for more recent information

Judicial branch

Supreme Court of Justice or Suprema Corte de Justicia, judges are appointed by the president with consent of the Senate

Political pressure groups and leaders

Confederation of Employers of the Mexican Republic or COPARMEX; Confederation of Industrial Chambers or CONCAMIN; Confederation of Mexican Workers or CTM; Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce or CONCANACO; Coordinator for Foreign Trade Business Organizations or COECE; Federation of Unions Providing Goods and Services or FESEBES; National Chamber of Transformation Industries or CANACINTRA; National Peasant Confederation or CNC; National Union of Workers or UNT; Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers or CROM; Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants or CROC; Revolutionary Workers Party or PRT; Roman Catholic Church; Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) (See Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico)

International organization participation

APEC, BCIE, BIS, Caricom (observer), CCC, CDB, EBRD, ECLAC, FAO, G-3, G-6, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM (observer), NEA, OAS, OECD, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description

Three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red; the coat of arms (an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak) is centered in the white band (see: Flag of Mexico).

See also

es:Política de México fr:Politique du Mexique


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