Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Is this leadership new?

Richard Fausset, writing the Los Angeles Times, offers another analysis of President Peña Nieto and the new PRI. How does this compare to other assessments?

A traditionalist shines through Mexico's fresh new face
They elected a youthful president, a self-styled defender of democratic principles who promised to bring the country up to 21st century standards.

Peña Nieto
But many Mexicans suspected that an old-fashioned dinosaur heart was beating beneath Enrique Peña Nieto's smartly tailored suits, an inheritance from his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, whose top-down, quasi-authoritarian rule defined much of Mexico's 20th century history.

[A]fter 100 days of living under Peña Nieto's rule, the Mexican people… [are] discovering that Peña Nieto may be a kind of hybrid political creature, intent on effecting change while hewing to some of his party's older ways…

[A]s he promises to modernize, Peña Nieto's moves to centralize power and co-opt opposition forces are causing jitters among those who remember when the PRI ran Mexico as an essentially one-party system…

Those plans are ambitious: Peña Nieto's team has already orchestrated passage of a nationwide education reform law, which required a change in the federal constitution. When the powerful leader of the national teacher's union, Elba Esther Gordillo, opposed the reform, she was arrested on suspicion of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from union coffers.

The day after the arrest, Peña Nieto went on television and spoke as if heralding a new day for his notoriously corrupt country, announcing that "no one is above the law." But the arrest was widely interpreted here as a classic PRI power play, one that removed a rival who was an impediment to the party's broader goals.

The education reform and the general outlines of the other key changes were contained in a blueprint for the country's immediate political future called the "Pact for Mexico." It was signed by the leaders of the PRI and the two major opposition parties — both of which had emerged from the presidential campaign weakened and in disarray — in a declaration of unity unprecedented in recent Mexican politics…

It remains to be seen whether Peña Nieto can pass the remaining major reforms. Changes to the tax code and the oil industry, in particular, could still face major hurdles from populists, nationalists, leftists and special interest groups.

If he succeeds, and the economy roars, the new jobs and boosted incomes may help solve the long-term security problem…

Sacred cows no more

DURING Enrique Peña Nieto’s successful run for Mexico’s presidency last year, political observers took his promises of structural reform with a large pinch of salt... he owed much of his rise to prominence to Televisa, a television network that has 70% of Mexico’s national free-to-air market. The company broadcast soap operas starring his future wife and gave him fawning coverage in the campaign. The common view held that Mr Peña would impose no more than cosmetic reforms on Televisa—or on any of the other interest groups that have hamstrung Mexico’s economy.

In the space of just two weeks, however, Mr Peña has revealed the extent of his ambition. Now that the PRI has retaken the presidency, he seems intent on clearing out the monopolistic blockages to Mexico’s growth...

[O]n March 11th Mr Peña turned on Televisa itself... by announcing a reform that could at last open up some of Mexico’s least competitive industries.

Mr Peña’s proposal, which his finance minister says would increase Mexico’s annual economic growth rate by one percentage point, would... set up a new, autonomous telecoms institute with the power to impose stiff penalties on firms that control over half their markets, or even break them up...

Mr Peña’s proposal is good news in economic terms. For the opposition, however, it is potentially double-edged. After generations of hegemonic rule, the centrist PRI is still the country’s strongest party. If Mr Peña succeeds, it will be able to argue that it is the only lot that can get anything done. Mexican consumers may see more competition under Mr Peña. The opposition will have to work hard to ensure that Mexican voters do not see less.

See also:

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is now available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

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