Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 01, 2013

Real change in Mexican politics?

Journalists have pointed at signs of change in Mexico. The Economist's editors are doing it again. Are they right?

Tearing up the script
LAST summer Enrique Peña Nieto’s determined face stared down from election posters, promising Mexicans: “You know I will deliver.” Just over 38% of voters were convinced, enough to hand him the presidency. Since his inauguration on December 1st he has indeed delivered several new policies and reforms—just not the ones voters and pundits expected…

Mr Peña’s legislators have turned their guns on those they were expected to protect. In January Mexico’s states ratified a constitutional reform that paves the way for better training and stricter evaluation of teachers, which should undermine the power of the union. An enabling law is due before the summer.

Now the government has set its sights on telecoms. According to Aurelio Nuño, the president’s chief of staff, within two months the PRI will present a bill to attack the “great problem of concentration” in telephony, internet and television. It promises to chip away at the business empire of Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, and that of Televisa, a broadcasting giant with mediocre soap operas but outstanding lawyers who have helped it to hold on to a 70% share of free-to-air viewers, as well as about half the pay-TV market.

Mr Peña’s change was partly prompted by the circumstances of his election. His 6.6% margin of victory fell short of the predicted landslide. Nor did the PRI manage to win a majority in either chamber of Congress… Mr Peña’s strike against Televisa is partly designed to undermine the claim that he is too cosy with them. Similarly, a reform in December to beef up freedom-of-information laws, by allowing appeals at the federal level if states refuse requests, is geared towards countering the PRI’s secretive image.

The other reason for the change of tack is an unexpected alliance struck in December between the PRI and the two main opposition parties. The “Pact for Mexico”, which contains 95 policy proposals on subjects from health to human rights, is the government’s biggest achievement so far, Mr Nuño says. The three parties that have signed up hold nearly every seat in Congress…

Mr Peña must make the most of the pact before July 7th, when elections in 14 states will pit the three parties against each other…

Less than 100 days into his presidency, Mr Peña’s unexpected course is bringing some dividends. His political ad-libbing in response to changing conditions has so far been deft. But many of the government’s boldest promises have not yet been achieved, and need to be.
Signing the Pact for Mexico
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