Commentary on Female Participation in Mexican Politics

Mexico Institute, 5/17/2012
by Diana Murray Watts and Eric L. Olson

Despite the small strides toward inclusion of women in Mexican politics, there remains much ground to be gained. The election of Josefina Vázquez Mota as the first female presidential candidate to run for a major political party (the PAN) marks a big step toward gender equality in politics. Mexican society as a whole, however, is still hierarchical – the male figure dominates family life, business, and politics. Many are still hesitant to grant women positions of power. For instance, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) had to go as far as issuing a warning to political parties for failing to comply legal requirements that 40% of each party’s candidate lists for Congressional seats be reserved for women. While political parties originally responded negatively to the IFE’s warnings, ultimately the parties complied with the legal requirement. However, the mere fact that a legal framework is needed to ensure female participation in politics speaks volumes about the apparent lack of gender equality in Mexico’s democracy.

The irony here is that while there are not enough female candidates in Mexican politics, women in the country are increasingly participating more than men. This is demonstrated by a recent publication by the Centro de Estudios para el Adelanto de las Mujeres y la Equidad de Género (CEAMEG) in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies and entitled “Observatorio legislativo sobre el avance de la participación política de las mujeres en México”, which points to IFE data showing that around 56% of those who voted in the 2006 election were women and 44% were men. This means that approximately 4 million more women voted than men.


The report also argues that the majority of voters in Mexico today are women, and that male participation in voting is gradually decreasing. Interestingly, the report also finds that women participate at  roughly the same rate in urban (46%) and rural (50%) areas. Despite comparatively high participation rates, the report estimates that women will not reach parity with men as office holders until the year 2087, this is, 75 years from now. One key factor is the low rate at which women appear on party lists as candidates for elected positions. Therefore, as the CEAMEG contends, legal reforms are necessary to guarantee that women have a fair chance in the candidate nomination process.

The report concludes that it is essential for Mexican political parties to recognize women’s potential as decision-makers and agents of political change in the country. Considering that political parties have been hesitant to adopt safeguards to ensure gender equity in the selection of candidates, ensuring the implementation of a legal framework that ensures full participation of women in Mexican politics becomes imperative.


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