By Rafael Fernández de Castro and Margarita Zavala. Translated from Spanish by the Mexico Institute
By Amy Glover, Director, McLarty Associates
In addition to the well-touted economic reforms passed recently, this year Mexico approved a political reform package that, among other things, includes new measures aimed to ensure the greater participation of women in politics. The law now requires gender parity, which means that at least fifty percent of the candidates fielded by a political party in either federal or state legislative elections must be female. This begs the question as to whether there are enough women in the ranks to step up to the plate. Probably not, at this point, but the onus is now on the political parties to both encourage greater female participation and to invest in training women to either seek elected office or to serve as part of their party’s proportional representation in Congress (in Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, 300 congresspersons are popularly elected, and 200 are assigned by their parties based on the percentage of the vote received in the election).
Check out our latest Expert’s Take article from Gildardo Gutierrez on the importance of parents in educational reform in Mexico. This will be the first article of a series on education by Gutierrez published in partnership with the Mexico Institute.
By Duncan Wood
As the Mexican congress debates two major economic reforms (fiscal and energy) a third reform debate, this time over changing the rules and institutions of the Mexican political system, is in full swing. Recent proposals by the opposition PAN and PRD parties have highlighted rival but complementary plans for addressing what are seen by some as the most problematic weaknesses of democracy in the country. As a central element of the Pacto por Mexico, we should expect that political reform will occur, and its implications for Mexico’s political balance will be profoundly felt.
Over the past three decades, piecemeal political reforms in Mexico have played a role in the gradual transformation from a closed authoritarian system to an evolving democracy. The true significance of many of these reforms was not apparent at the time, but they have played important roles in the path of democratization. The creation of the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) stands out as perhaps the most important of these but, as Rod Camp has pointed out, other reforms have proven to be highly significant in the long term.
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By Roderic Camp
As President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to pass new legislation, much of it highly controversial, are his efforts breaking new ground, or does Mexico have a well-established track record of major reforms? A brief look back at the last two decades alone suggests the extent to which current legislation, both proposed and passed, is unique in content and in the legislative process. Several path-breaking political reforms in the 1990s, under the last two PRI presidents in the 71 year reign of that party, illustrate some revealing precedents.
A strong case can be made that the most challenging political reform introduced under President Carlos Salinas, which has not received the attention it deserves, was his decision to introduce major alterations in Article 130 of the 1917 Constitution, which focused on the lengthy and deep conflictive history of the Church-State relationship. Provisions in that article imposed severe restrictions on the Catholic Church and other religious institutions, a product of the 1910 Revolution, as well as a nineteenth century conflict between Liberals and Conservatives represented in the 1857 Constitution. The president initiated these reforms in 1992, which for the first time in seven decades, allowed religious institutions to have legal standing, thus they could own property, and permitted priests and ministers to vote. It removed other outdated limitations as well.
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On August 11th, President Enrique Peña Nieto sent his energy reform proposal to Congress, despite the fact that he did not have the full support for the reform from all parties included in the “Pacto por Mexico.” The proposal, as he had promised, is transformative, suggesting several significant changes to the Constitution.
The reform, which will be discussed in the Senate this October, seeks to amend articles 27 and 28 of the Mexican constitution. Although it has not been recognized as such, the President’s proposal is revolutionary not because of the language it adds, but rather, because of the language it omits. The reform erases the word“contracts” in the phrase “For oil and solid, liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons or radioactive minerals, no concessions or contracts shall be granted” found in Article 27. From Article 28, it omits the words “oil and other hydrocarbons, basic petrochemicals, electricity” from the list of strategic areas.
By proposing to eliminate these words and phrases from the law, President Peña Nieto has crossed the Rubicon, laying the foundation for a reform devoted to transforming the energy sector. These changes have the potential to convert the sector into a competitive energy market that promotes the country’s industrialization.