Mexico: Course of Reforms Will Continue

The elections in Mexico – the second largest economic power in Latin America – has drawn enormous international attention. The main reasons for such heed is that they were in fact decisive for the reformation process initiated by incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto after his re-election in 2012.

On June 7, Mexico held midterm presidential elections (between the presidential electoral campaigns of 2012 and 2018), where all the 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies of the Federal Congress of the Union, governors of 9 states (out of 32 federal entities) and 1650 heads of regional administrations were elected.

The course of reforms is imperative and aimed at solving the two most thorny problems of Mexico: first of all, to reduce the flagrant social inequality which in fact has resulted in co-existence of two different societies divided by a wall of misunderstanding and apathy towards each other; secondly, to put an end to the rampant organized crime which culminated in the murder of 43 students in September 2014 with complicity of law enforcers. Those are the priority issues of the national agenda.

The reformation processes encompassing economic structures and the socio-political sector that started in the country have encountered both supporters and die-hard opponents who expected to strip the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) of the majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies after the elections on June 7 and, consequently, torpedo further reforms. The stakes were exceptionally high because the changes conducted in the country had direct impact on interests and privileges of influential public powers striving to quit the role of a political crowd and dictate their own game rules to the government. Hence the boiling tensions and upsurge in violence. It is suffice to say that 70 acts of crime and 19 overtly political murders have happened in three months, including assassination of candidates and party activists. It sounds horrible, but the first victim of the cascade of crimes was a woman, Aidé Nava González, a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD). Bandits tortured and beheaded her…

The government did not cherish any illusions of the opposition's intentions and made thorough preparations for the electoral battle. On February 10, 2014, a package of constitutional reforms for the political and electoral system was made public and adopted. One of the key elements of the reforms was the abolishment of the Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE) and its substitution by the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE), which retained the attributes and structure of the IFE, albeit gaining wider powers in organizing and holding electoral campaigns. Subsequently, the INE was the one to play the key role in keeping the electoral process intact and preventing any attempts made by the opponents of President Enrique Peña Nieto's policy at boycotting the elections. In other words, the success of the elections and recognition of their results on the national and the international levels were largely due to the decisive actions of INE officers.

The main outcome is that the government will continue the course of reforms because the PRI (it won the elections with 29.19% of vote) and its allies – the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (Partido Verde Ecologista de México) and the New Alliance Party (Partido Nueva Alianza) – preserved the majority of seats at the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, candidates from the PRI got 6 out of 9 governor posts. Thus, neither the right-wing nor the left-wing opposition managed "to hog the political covers" and radically change the balance of power. The right-wing National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) won 20.89% of vote, far below the support needed to successfully compete with the PRI. The left-wing camp suffered from an outright schism which rules out (at least in the near future) opportunities for coordinated actions. As a result, the main left-wing organization PRD won only 10.83% of vote, its former fraction Morena got 8.37%. At the same time, candidates of the said three parties will battle with the PRI candidate in the presidential elections in 2018. That does not, however, mean that the Mexican political life will see no motion after the latest pre-electoral campaign.

In particular, the unprecedented victory of three independent candidates (a total of 124 independent politicians were campaigning for posts) was a predictable surprise: Jaime Rodríguez, nicknamed El Bronco (for his tough-talking) became the governor of the second most significant state, Nuevo Leon, Pedro Kumanoto entered the congress of State Jalisco and Manuel Clouthier became the only independent member of the new Federal Chamber of Deputies. They are the first fruits, demonstrating that the political system in the country has made a move. A candidate of the ruling party may as well have to simultaneously compete with opponents of traditional parties and independent politicians in the presidential elections of 2018. The PRI government needs to take that detail into account and correct its progress to prevent loss of the vote of confidence it gained on June 7.

Enrique Peña Nieto's keeping the dominating positions in the government is amazingly suitable for practically all international partners of Mexico because it guarantees preservation of the multi-vector and balanced foreign political and foreign economic course. It seems that Mexico will continue its constructive role in Latin America, which is focused on deepening the integration processes in the region. Washington has breathed a sigh of relief because its neighbor in the south is the most important commercial and economic partner of the US, and the best news from Mexico for the White House is no news and retention of status quo. There are reasons to suppose that the election results are optimal for Russia because it is an opportunity to carry on with the promotion of the positive agenda of the Russia-Mexico relations.

Thus, the midterm elections have given the current Mexican government a break, enabled it to continue the course of reforms, the positive results of which will bring certain improvements to the situation in the country and secure PRI's victory in the presidential elections of 2018.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.