Monday, December 16, 2013
Mexican Congress Approves Revolutionary Energy and Election Reforms
By Allan Wall
The pace of reform
in the Mexican Congress has been moving rapidly. Within one week, potentially revolutionary changes have
been made to energy law and election law.
For years the question of oil has been discussed in Mexico. Should the state oil monopoly PEMEX
(Petróleos Mexicanos) open up to private, even foreign, investment in profit-sharing enterprises?
On December 10th, 2013 such a reform
passed the Mexican Senate, by a vote of 95 to 28. Two days later, on December 11th, it passed the Cámara
de Diputados, the Mexican House of Representatives, by a vote of 353 to 134.
Politically, the reform is supported
by the president’s PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) party, the PAN (Partido Acción
Nacional) although four diputados of said party voted against it, and the Green Party (Partido Verde Ecologista de
The energy reform is opposed by the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática)
and other leftist parties. Opponents want
a national referendum on the issue and object to the manner in which it was passed in Congress.
In order to become law, since the energy reform involves constitutional change, this requires
the ratification by a majority of Mexico’s 31 state and the Federal District's legislatures. It
needs to be passed by 17 of them. When that happens, it can be signed by the president into law.
The state ratifications followed very
quickly. The first state legislature to approve the measure was that of Chiapas, with 32 votes in favor
and only 4 opposed. Other states soon followed. As of 8:03 p.m., on the night of December
14th, 13 states (Chiapas, Querétaro, Veracruz, Mexico, Hidalgo, Durango, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Sonora, Coahuila,
Jalisco, Nayarit and Hidalgo) had approved the reform.
The energy reform will allow foreign oil companies to help develop Mexican oil fields by means of production-sharing
If the ratification process proceeds in a timely manner, initial contracts under the reform may be in effect by the
end of calendar year 2014.
The reform’s boosters are bullish on its economic benefits, while opponents attack it for giving wealth to
Besides the opening to outside investment, the reform also changes the structure of the PEMEX governing board. The
board currently has 15 members, five of which represent the PEMEX union. These five are being removed from
the board, bringing its membership down to ten, consisting of five government representatives and five professional advisers.
major reform was followed by another reform dealing with Mexican election law.
The “No Reelection” slogan has been an axiom of Mexican politics for decades, a response to the long
dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was against the Porfiriato regime that
the Mexican Revolution was originally directed.
The new reform, however, would allow the reelection of public officials, including members of congress, state legislatures
and mayors. (Term limits would limit them to 12 years.)
However, the president, who has a six-year
term, would still not be allowed reelection, nor would state governors who also serve six-year terms.
Other parts of the political reform
include allowing independent candidates not running as members of parties; and the replacement of the current IFE (Instituto
Federal Electoral) with the INE (Instituto Nacional Electoral). The measure also makes the attorney general office more autonomous.
In Mexico, political parties are publicly funded. This does not change, but under the new political
reform law the threshold percentage of the vote required to receive public funding is raised from the current 2% to 3%.
The House approved this reform on December
6th and the Senate on December 13th.
Like the energy reform, this also requires the approval of 17 of Mexico’s state legislatures.
If ratified, officials can be reelected
beginning in the 2018 election, which includes elections for president and the entire Congress. (Under current law, the entire
Senate is replaced every six years and the entire House every three years. See Elections in Mexico and the US: Comparisons and contrasts).
These reforms are revolutionary in
themselves, and especially revolutionary when you consider how they go against longstanding Mexican political traditions.
that these reforms are being carried out under a PRI administration, the same party which established the state oil monopoly
PEMEX and the No Reelection Law. It’s an example of the “Nixon Goes to China” principle.
party that had the political credibility for establishing the policies was able to engineer the abolition of the same policies.
Of course, much remains to be done.
Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico
for many years. His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info/.