Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

PRI president but not a PRI legislature

Damien Cave's analysis in the New York Times, suggests that Peña Nieto's victory in Mexico might be smaller than expected, while the challenges might be greater. And, if his conclusion is correct, politics and government in Mexico will be very different than they used to be.

Narrow Victory for Mexico’s New Leader Signals Bigger Challenges Ahead
On the two most important issues of crime and the economy, many experts doubt he will be able to quickly turn things around… Voters gave Mr. Peña Nieto a narrower than expected victory over his two challengers, with 38 percent of the vote, and PRI officials also say they do not expect a majority in Congress.

Mr. Peña Neito will not just have to negotiate with opposing parties; he also faces an energized grass-roots opposition and possibly a protracted fight for legitimacy…

But in the meantime, analysts expect Mr. Peña Nieto to continue the aggressive, militaristic approach of President Felipe Calderón…

That could mean what some analysts are predicting will be a “surge” not unlike the 2007 American troop increase in Iraq…

The vote count, however, suggests that Mr. Peña Nieto could face some constraints and a difficult choice of location. He lost the two most violence-racked border states, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, and he nearly lost Veracruz, another state where violence has recently skyrocketed. Moving a lot of soldiers into one of those states, or reassigning resources from another one, would probably anger residents who already oppose the PRI.

Mr. Hope adds that Mexico’s federalist system means Mr. Peña Nieto will probably have to pay a hefty price to state and local leaders to persuade them to introduce any new security plan, possibly with expensive programs or infrastructure…

What seems less likely are larger economic changes. Mr. Peña Nieto campaigned on a promise to double Mexico’s growth rate to 6 percent. But his specific proposals — loosening labor laws, improving the tax system and opening Pemex, the state-run oil company, to foreign investment — all look harder to achieve now without a majority of congressional seats for the PRI.

The effort to change Pemex faces an especially tough battle because a two-thirds majority is needed for the constitutional changes that would open up the industry. Even within the PRI, Mr. Peña Nieto faces significant opposition to the idea, which the company’s powerful union has also resisted change for years.

Mr. Peña Nieto, nonetheless, does not seem cowed. In his statements to supporters and reporters over the past few days, he has struck a conciliatory tone, saying that he hopes to work closely with opponents while ensuring transparency within his party. The PRI, it seems, after arguing that it is new and different, will now deal with the fact that Mexico itself has truly changed into a messy, complicated democracy in which presidents no longer control all.

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