Mexican Fiscal and Electoral Reforms Move Forward
of hoopla and horse trading, the Mexican Congress has finally approved reforms in fiscal policy and electoral law.
of these reforms demonstrates the necessity of negotiations in the Mexican Congress. Long gone are the days of yore, when
the Mexican Congress was a rubber stamp for the executive in a one-party state.
president has to negotiate. On the legislative side, each of the three major parties, the PAN (National Action Party), the
PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) and the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), has to give up part of what it wants
to get something it wants.
was (and is) a goal of the Calderon administration, while electoral reform was a goal of the opposition parties. So the opposition parties got what they wanted, and Calderon got what he wanted. Sort of.
the verdict on this fiscal reform?
bank Morgan Stanley calls it “a clear step in the right direction” and “a break from Mexico’s past
of political gridlock.” Fitch Ratings has upgraded the long-term foreign
currency credit rating of Mexico.
the reform fell short of what it might have been.
George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary, calls it “reform lite.”
fell back on a longstanding tradition of utilizing the oil monopoly PEMEX to bail out the government’s finances. A big part of the fiscal reform (opposed by the PRD) is a price increase for PEMEX
gasoline. That means that ordinary Mexicans will be paying more for gas at the
pumps, by January 1st at the latest.
once again that PEMEX functions as a tax-collection agency for the Mexican government.
to the Mexican government’s own calculations, even including the gasoline price hike and other taxes, the fiscal reform
will only yield an increase to the tax coffers of 1% of GDP.
something, but hardly overwhelming.
reform is supported by the leadership of all three major parties, the PAN, the PRI and the PRD.
reform includes big changes in campaign advertising. It bans parties from purchasing
air time on Mexican TV and radio stations. In place of paid ads, the reform stipulates
that TV and radio stations are obliged to give free time for party advertisements. These would be in 2-3 minute slots in prime-time,
from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Is this an
improvement? Obviously Mexico’s media giants Televisa and Azteca oppose the reform, a Televisa spokesman referred to
it as “Soviet-style politics to maintain the status quo.”
Manlio Fabio Beltrones, on the other hand, said "What are we defending here, a country dominated by advertising and ratings
or the right of citizens to obtain information that helps to inform their decisions?"
Sergio Sarmiento, though, criticized the change and said it would make the campaigns more — not less — dependent
on short sound-bite driven ads called “spots.”
reform also makes it more difficult for new parties to be formed. Despite their differences, the PAN, PRD and PRI (with their
satellite parties) are not keen on allowing more parties into the fray.
electoral reform will expel all the current counselors on the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute) Board. That’s what the
PRD wanted, as vengeance for ruling against them in the last presidential election.
The PRI accepted the expulsion in order to keep the PRD on board, and the PAN accepted it to get PRI support for fiscal
how politics functions in the real world.
absent from the electoral reform is a second round in the presidential election. That would probably be more useful than anything
in heading off a 2006-type post-election contention.
reform amends the Constitution, and must be passed by 16 of the 31 unicameral state legislatures in Mexico. It looks like it’s going to pass. (The Mexican Constitution
is amended much more frequently than the U.S. Constitution, and amendments are passed much more rapidly.)
considered, the reforms are a victory for President Felipe Calderon, who recently received a 69% approval rating in a Parametria
poll. Hopefully, substantive (though more controversial) reforms in energy and
labor laws will follow.
As for the
fiscal and electoral reforms, consider a quotation from 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck. It was
Bismarck who remarked that “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.”
a MexiData.info columnist, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He currently resides
in Mexico, where he has lived since 1991. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.