September 1, 2000


A Balance of Powers Emerges in Mexico

By Enrique Davis-Mazlum

Mexico City - El LVIII Congreso de la Union (The 58th Congress in Mexico) was sworn in on August 28th, 2000. Mexico has a Bicameralism Congress divided in two legislative houses: Camara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies / Representatives) elected for a period of three years and Camara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators) elected for a period of six years. The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 500 Representatives of those 300 are elected through a direct vote (votación mayoritaria relativa) in uninominal electoral district and 200 are elected by proportional representation. The Senate is composed of 128 Senators of those two per state are elected by a relative majority vote -both are members of the same political party- and one per state is assigned to the First Minority Party; there are 32 Federal Senators which are elected through proportional representation.

During the past twelve years Senators and Congressmen in Mexico have lost the respect of their constituents. It is said that the only thing that they did was get together in a big fancy chamber, sleep and vote when the President of the Republic of Mexico presented a Bill to Congress. Party line in Mexico was so strong that bills were not discussed based on the effects and impacts that they would have on constituents, but on how the party would be affected. The party was represented before the constituents in the districts or state that got them elected. With the new composition of this LVIII Congress people in Mexico are excited that many old habits will die. A new balance of power emerges in Mexico after 70 years. Senators and Representatives will have to work really hard to gain the respect that they deserve. The interest of their constituents will now be a priority when making decisions if they want their party to keep that district after their term is over.

What is unique in this LVIII Congress is that for the first time after 70 years there won't be a political party with an absolute majority. This will change the entire way that Congress has worked for more than 70 years. The three major parties - the PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party), PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) and the PAN (National Action Party)- will have to negotiate and discuss every single bill. There will not be one single bill that will pass through Congress if there is no discussion and negotiating among Legislatures.

One of the biggest challenges that this new Congress will face is the creation of a new Magna Carta (Constitution). The current Constitution dates back to when President Venustiano Carranza (1859-1920) promised in the State of Sonora that he would create a Constituent Congress that would have the obligation of creating a Constitution. On November 16th, 1916 the first meetings began and on February 5th, 1917 in Queretaro the Constitution was approved. It is really important to understand that this Constituent Congress was composed of moderates and radicals or what we know as liberals and conservatives. It seems that history is repeating it self after 83 years. Representative Pablo Gomez of the PRD party during the LVII Congress (57th Congress) presented a bill that would add Title 10 and Article 137 to the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico. This will allow Congress to create a Constituent Congress that would have the responsibility of creating a New Constitution and would be elected for a period of one year maximum. The proposal of the New Constitution will need the approval of both houses and there will be a Referendum to approve it, the President will not have the right to veto this Constitution. Representative Gomez says that there is a need for this because the Mexican Constitution since 1917 has had over 500 amendments and some of them are obsolete. Their needs to be a restructuring of the balance of powers in Mexico, define the role of each of the branches (Executive, Legislative and Judicial), incorporate issues that are of great importance such as: education, human rights, poverty, Indian rights, multiculturalism, environment, globalization, budget approval and many other issues. This bill was laid on the table and it is now up to the LVIII Congress to discuss this bill and decide whether they will incorporate Title 10 and Article 137 to the Constitution.

The LVIII Congress will also hear President Ernesto Zedillo give his last State of the Union Address on September 1st, 2000. President Zedillo during January 1995 had an approval rate of 30 percent, but after allowing the elections of July 2nd, 2000 take place with total transparency his popularity jumped to 66 percent. President Zedillo's term will end December 1st, 2000 and will be known as the President that allowed democracy in Mexico to flourish.

As we can see the balance of powers in Mexico is emerging, for instance Governor Martin Huerta of Guanajuato vetoed the "Penalization of Abortion if Caused by Rape Bill" that was presented and approved by members of his own party -PAN- in the Local Congress of Guanajuato. Checks and Balances is what's occurring in Mexico. Many believe that President Elect Vicente Fox is the solution to many of the problems in Mexico along with a strong Legislative Branch and independent Judicial System, but in reality the only thing that Mexico needed was a system of checks and balances like it was intended in the Constitution of February 5th, 1917.

The Chamber of Deputies will be composed by 500 Representatives: 211 of the PRI; 206 of the PAN; 50 of the PRD; 7 of the PT (Labour Party); 17 of the PVEM (Green Ecological Party of Mexico); 4 of the Convergencia Party; 3 of the PSN (Nationalist Society Party); 2 of the PAS (Social Alliance Party) The Chamber of Senators of the Republic will be composed of 128 Senators: 60 of the PRI; 46 of the PAN; 15 of the PRD; 1 of the PT; 5 of the PVEM; 1 of the Convergencia Party.

Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy.

NOTE: Reelection in Mexico for the President and Governors is not permitted, Senators, Representatives, Local Representatives and Municipal Presidents are allowed to get reelected but after a term has passed.

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