Mexican Democracy Jim Sullivan Mexican Democracy When one thinks of Mexico the first thing that often comes to mind are all of the old Westerns where the bad guys would run to Mexico to escape and good guys were attacked by desperados and also government troops. This stereotype is not too far off from the actual political situation in Mexico. If one were to look at the history of this troubled nation one would find a universal lack of stable government and a tendency towards military run dictatorships. This comes from a turbulent history fraught with foreign influence and puppet governments. The most recent foreign intervention was in the 1850’s when the French sent troops over to Mexico in order to establish a puppet government under Archduke Maxamillian of Austria. His reign was short-lived and revolutionaries executed him after his surrender in May of 1867. The revolutionary leader Benito Juarez then assumed the presidency. His reign only lasted five years until another revolution lead by Porfiro Diaz.
Diaz was the leader in Mexican politics for 35 years until he was finally overthrown. This progression didn’t end with Diaz, his successor, Francisco Madero, was overthrown and executed by General Victoriano Huerta, a brutal military dictator who was in power for a short time then overthrown in a new wave of revolutions. This flow of leaders coming to power then being overthrown has lead to a very unstable Mexican political structure. The trend of the losers in an election starting a revolution in response continued until General Lazaro Cardenas came to power in 1934 and became the first president in Mexican history to serve out a full term. The next president, Avila Camacho was the one to organize the PRI, the political party that continues to dominate in Mexico even today.
The problems with the present Mexican political system are many in number. First historically the solution to political dispute has always been to start a rebellion. This leads to an extremely unstable situation where candidates may be intimidated out of running for office for fear of their lives. Next even when there has been a stable government the governments have been weak and often fail to accomplish any real progress. Finally the biggest obstacle to true democracy in Mexico is that the average person has had very little representation in the government. This is due to the fact that this current Mexican governmental structure, in place since the 30’s has been dominated by one party, the PRI, and has been essentially a one party system.
For the common people this means they can either not vote or vote for the party they may or may not support. To remedy this situation is not an easy task. The current Mexican system is a federal-presidential system, using first past the post elections. The mostly FPP system is what has allowed the PRI to stay in power because it is very hard for new parties to win significant numbers of seats. The first amendment to the Mexican system would be the electoral system. To gain entrance to the political sphere in the current system a party may win some seats with the small PR but still must win a majority of votes in a given district or districts.
This is very difficult for a new party who people would be afraid to support due to the fact that they don’t know it or that they may not vote for because they know it will not win. My recommendation would be to change to a 50/50 mix of first past the post and proportional representation in the Mexican legislature. Going to a 50/50 mix is better than a total PR switch because total PR often leads to political instability with coalition and minority governments. In a country such as Mexico that has a history of instability any new elements of conflict would be bad. With the new electoral system smaller parties that already exist such as local parties or current fringe parties could gain power in the legislature and force the PRI to change and adapt to the will of the people.
The increased diversity in the legislature would lead to some conflict but in the long run it would be much better than an essentially single party system. The Presidential elections would also have to be changed. This must also be amended to ensure that PRI control the presidency. In the current system the outgoing president nominates their successor on the party level, then the elections between this candidate and the opposition take place. The presidential electoral system should be changed to a form like the one used in France or the CIS.
This is a two-ballot system that if no candidate gets a clear majority then the top two candidates have a runoff election and the top candidate in that election wins. This would help make it easier for upcoming parties’ candidates to gain national recognition if not the office they seek. With these changes the whole governmental system would be open for new candidates and parties. With the new parties the politicians would have to actually represent the people’s wishes to get the votes. In terms of the actual type of government that should be in place in Mexico the current federal system with a legislature and president, is probably the best system for the land.
A parliamentary system with the ever-present possibility of a no confidence vote would be too volatile for the Mexican political world. If Mexico did go tot a parliamentary system then there would be the distinct possibility of a situation like that in Italy, where governments seldom last more than a year or two. The presidential system allows for enough authority over the legislature to promote stability and also it doesn’t put the parties in the position of having to nominate and vote on a Prime Minister when they come to power. In conclusion, the historical precedents in Mexico are decidedly in favor of instability and rebellion when the outcome is not in a candidate’s favor. Although Mexico has had a long period of stability continued assassinations and threats of violence are a constant reminder of the looming danger of rebellion.
This period of stability in Mexican government has been controlled almost exclusively by the PRI, the top party. To make the Mexican system more democratic and allow for a diversity of opinion and points of view, the electoral system should be changed from mostly FPP and a little PR to a 50/50 mix of FPP and PR. This would allow people to vote the reality vote of who is likely to win in their district for FPP but also to make the conscience vote of whom they really want to vote for and not feel as though they were throwing away their vote. The current presidential system should be left intact because it is the most stability promoting system and this is a definite benefit for the Mexican system. Bibliography Works Consulted Alba, Victor. A Concise History of Mexico.
London, Cassell, 1973 Fornaro, Carlo de. Carranza and Mexico. New York, M Kennerly, 1915 International Congress of Mexican History. Contemporary Mexico: Papers of the IV International Congress of Mexican History. Berkley, University of California Press, 1976 La Botz, Dan. Democracy in Mexico: Peasant Rebellion and Political Reform.
Boston, South End Press, 1995 MacLachlan, Colin M. Anarchism and the Mexican Revolution: The Political Trials of Ricardo Flores Magon in the United States. Berkley, University of California Press, 1991 The Age of Poriforio Diaz. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1977 Political Issues.