Political Reform in Mexico: Salinas's Other Revolution

Report Americas

Political Reform in Mexico: Salinas's Other Revolution

October 11, 1991 28 min read Download Report
Michael G.
Senior Fellow and Director of Government Finance Programs

(Archived document, may contain errors)

858 October 11,1991 FOLmcAL REMlRM IN MEXICO SALINAS'S OTHER REVOLUTION INTRODUCTION Mexican President Carlos Salinas de ~artari is well-known in the United States for his fke market economic refm program and f or pushing the Free Trade Area Agreement with the U.S. These will revolutionize Mexico's economy Less well-known north of the Rio Grande is the political revolution which he is leading. So far he has championed the successful July 1990 passage in the Mexi can Congress of a new national electoral law, known as the Federal Code of Elec toral Institutions and procedures (COFIPE This law has made possible such re forms as the creation of the non-partisan Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) to over see elections a nd the multiparty Federal Electoral Tribunal to settle election dis putes. Salinas also mandated the creation of a new voter registration Iist, the issu ing of new voting credentials, and multiparty observation of polling stations on election day.' More i m portant, future political reforms on his agenda likely could include tighter restrictions on the use of government resources during campaigns a more thmugh and accurate voter registration process, and a quicker count of the voting booth tallies vote of co nfidence in the August 18 mid-term elections. Mexicans voted over 3 to-1 in favor of his party, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

This demonstrated popular support for Salinas's platform of improved relations Strong Popular Support. Sa linas's twin revolutions this summer won a strong 1 See "The Mexican Agenda 11th Edition,The Office of the Resident of the Republic of Mexico, April 1991 pp. 69-75. with the U.S free aade, fm market refom, and anti-drug and anti-corruption ef forts The PR I s strong showing now could give Salinas the clear mandate that he needs to hasten the pace of economic and political reform in Mexico, possibly even including constitutional changes to increase foreign investment in Mexicos statedominated economic sectors , and launch badly needed agrarian reform Poor Opposition Showing. Mexicos leading opposition parties, the center conservative National Action Party (PAN) ind theleftist Party of the Democratic Revolution PRD fared poorer than expected in the elections, xx e iving roughly 18 percent and 8 percent of the vote respectively. The PRI, under the leadership of Salinas and his team of pro-free market reformers, swept the elections with an es timated 61 percent of the total vote. In an August 21 press conference in M e xico City, Salinas called the electoral results a confirmation that people want the [free market and democratic] changes t~ continue, and stressed that the PRI is offering the Mexicans tangible reforms and a clear vision of what is in stm for their fu 2 t u re By all indications, the elections were without a doubt the cleanest in the 62 years that the PRI has governed Mexico. Incidents of ballot box tampering, voter intimidation, and the busing of PRI supporters to polling stations, which were commonplace in past elections, were isolated and restricted mostly to local level races. According to official figures released by the IFE, only one in every 860 polling stations nationwide reported hgularitie This represents less than one percent of all the voting inst a llations in Mexico. J There is much at stake for the U.S. in Salinass political reform program. Free and fair elections in Mexico will burnish the allure of the North American Free Trade Agreem nt (NAFIA which would create the worlds largest and most dy n a mic market. American opponents of the trade negotiations with Mexico, in cluding protectionists in the U.S. Congress, labor unions, some human rights groups, and some environmental organizations, charge that Mexicos suspect dem ocratic credentials disqual ify Mexico from joining in a North American economic alliance. But by Augusts fair elections, the Salinas government has punctured that argument and removed this potential obstacle to Mexicos inclusion in the f fiw trade pact.

Fostering Econokc Prosperity. For Mexico, the NAETTA will help foster sus tained economic growth through expanded trade and investment in a North Ameri can market comprising 360 million people and $6 trillion in annual output. This 2 Tim Golden, Mexican SaysVoteVindicates Change, The New York Times, August 21,1991, p. A7 3 Information provided by Ambassador Santiago OAate, Mexicos Permanent Representative to the organization of American States. at a September 30 meeting in Washington of The Heritage Foundation Mexico Working The NAFIA would remove such barriers to trade as tariffs and quotas and seek a broad liberalization in the Group 4 commerce of goods. s&vices and investment between the U.S Canada, and Mexico 2 economic prosperity, in turn, will help sustain Salinass political refo r ms and bol ster Mexicos political stability. Mexicos political reforms and participation in the NAFIA also will play pivotal roles in advancing George Bushs Enterprise for the Americas Initiative EN which seeks to create a Western Hemisphere free trade zo n e and a foundation for continued democratic progress throughout the region. Without the active participation of a democratic and pro-fiee market Mexico, the EAI would have little chance of success Political Turning Point. The.August 18 elections for all o f the 500-seat House of Deputies, half of the

me mber Senate, six of Mexicos 3 1 governor ships, and hundreds of local assembly seats, coming at the mid-point of Salinass six-year presidential term, were a historic turning point for Mexico. The PRI which long has dominated Mexican politics, often throug h vote fraud, intimida tion, and government handouts, proved that it could win elections legitimately though the victory largely was due to Salinass popularity. Confirming Salinass popularity, an August 9 pre-election public opinion survey published by the U.S based Gallup Organization, Inc gave Salinas a 80 percent appval rating and re vealed that 70 perc nt of the Mexican people feel that the country is moving in the right direction son is that the Salinas administration is championing free trade, free ma rket re form, and privatization of state-owned industries in the Western Hemisphere.

Other reasons for improved U.S.-Mexico ties include the Salinas governments full-scale assault on the international drug trade, improved human rights record and expanded c ooperation with Washington on such border issues as illegal im migration, crime, and the environment. These unprecedented initiatives never would have been possible without a parallel policy of political reform in Mexico.

Tremendous Stake. The U.S. and Bu sh Administration have a tremendous stake in the success of Salinas. Not only does the U.S. share a 1,933-mile border with Mexico, but Hispanic Americans, 25 million strong, are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Their population is expec ted to reach 34.8 million by the year 20

00. Moreover, political and economic distress in Mexico could cause an upheaval which, according to some U.S. government estimates, could re sult in as many as 10 million refugees fleeing northward into the U.S. Thi s would create enormous economic and social problems for American border states6 Under the leadership of both Salinas and Bush, however, two nations that once were distant neighbors have developed over the past three years into economic and political part n ers. Relations between the two countries are better today than at any point in history P U.S.-Mexico relations have been on the upswing for over three years. One rea 5 A Proud Country Advances Economically and Politically, poll results released by The Gal l up Organization Inc., August 9.1991 6 See Michael G. Wilson, The Security Component of U.S.-Mexico Relations, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 688, January 26,1989, p. 2 3 THE 1991 ELECTIONS: A TEST CASE FOR SALINAS The August 18 mid-term elections we r e in effect a plebiscite on the fist three years of the Salinas administration. In this plebiscite, the Mexican people sup- ported Salinass economic and political reforms. These elections also were the first large-scale test of Salinass electoral reform p rogram and could help institu tionalize democratic procedures and institutions in Mexico.

Yet the elections still raised questionsabout the credibility of Mexicos elec toral process. Isolated campaign and voting booth irregularities were reported throughou t the country, including the use of government funds to promote PRI candidates, ballot box swig, and voter list tampering. But by past standards, these incidents were very minor and did not account for the PRI sweep. This is certain because credible indep e ndent preelection polls and exit polls found a strong PRI showing. These polls in fact, predicted that the ruling party would win some 62 percent of the vote-virtually the same share as the official post-election tally. Nevertheless, the electoral irregul arities underscored that the Mexican gov ernment must continue moving ahead with political reform and must act quickly to punish those guilty of vote fraud.

An Early Test Case. Six weeks before the August 18 nationwide elections key elections were held in the important indusmal and border state of Nuevo Leon. This July 7 balloting was the fmt major test of Salinass political refm program. The PRI carried Nuevo Leon by a 2-to- 1 margin. Most important, the PRI did this with little or no vote tampering and w i th no violence. According to Jose Natividad Gonzalez Paras, the President of Nuevo Leons Electoral Commis sion, [election] irregularities were observed in only 0.8 percent of the polling places, and though there was some criticism, the process has been [a p plauded by political parties, business organizations, civic groups, the church, and by citi zens in Socrates Rim, the PRIs candidate for Nuevo Leon governor and former mayor of the state capital of Montemy, won the gubernatorial contest with 63 percent of the vote-basically the same percentage of the vote received by the PRI at the national level on August

18. In a better than expected showing, PAN candidate Rogelio Sada Zambrano came in second with 32 percent of the vote while the PRDs Lucas de la Garza received only 2.7 percent. The PRI also won 25 of 26 state deputy seats and one proportional seat, the PAN won one directly elected seat and 12 through proportional allotment, while the PRD won only one proportional seat. With a 60 percent turnout of thos e registered, voter participa tion also was much higher than in previous years 7 Gonzalez Paras made this statement at a July 22 meeting at the Mexican Embassy in Washington 4 The Mid-Term Elections all 500 seats in the federal House of Deputies, hundreds o f state-level assembly seats and the governorships of the states of Campeche, Colima, Guanajuato, So nom, San Luis Potosi, and Queretero. These were also the 'first nationwide elec tions of the Salinas era and the only such election until a new president i s chosen in July 1994 At stake in the August 18 elections were half of the Mexican Senate's 64 seats In the mid-term elections, House of Deputies members were elected through both "majority" and proportional" sys tems of electoral rep resentation. In a ma jority vote election the winnez is the can didate that receives the most votes in a state. In some local state, and federal elec tions, however, par ties also are awarded additional representa tives based on the pro portion of the total vote that the part y re ceives. All senators ties were elected by a specific district or and 300 federal &PU Mexico's Mid-Term Elections August 18, 1991 Number of Seat8 Won In Senate Number of Seat8 Won in Chamber of Deputieo Other8 60 PRD PAN 41 1 PAN 89 PRI: lnat1tutlonaI R emlutlonary Party PAN: Natlonal Actlon Party PRD Party of the Democratlc Revolutlon .Othrrr: Party of the Cerdenlata Front of National Reconstruction, Popular Soclallst Party Authentlc Party of the Mexlcan Revolutlon Heritage DataChart majority vote; 200- federal deputies were elected by proportional allotment8 This guarantees that all parties winning at least 1.5 percent of the total vote receive rep resentation in the Mexican Congress.

The August 18 voting was the most closely scrutinized national elections in Mexico's history.

In it, the PRI won five of six governorship races, losing only in Guanajuato, 31 of the 32 seats contested for the Senate and 290 of the 300 di rectly elected Deputy seats. Additionally, the PRI will receive 30 of the 200 pro porti onally selected Deputy seats, and approximately 80 percent of the local seats for state deputies 8 Far mm information see Artm Nun= Jimenez El Nuevo Sistema Electoral Mexico, D.F Fond0 de Culm Economica, 1991 5 The PAN placed second in the polls with abou t 18 percent of the national vote and won the governors race in the state of Guanajuato. It also picked up one of the 32 contested Senate seats.This was in the Pacific coast state of Baja Califor nia, where the PAN won the governors seat in 19

89. The PAN also won 10 fed eral deputy seats through direct election. Its second place vote share led Mexicos states to award it 79 seats through proportional allotment. The PRD finished a dis tant third with some 9 percent of the total vote. It won no directly cont ested fed eral seats and 41 through the proportional system?

By winning 320 of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the PRI by itself will not be able to amend the constitution to lay the groundwork for reforms to modernize Mexicos oil industry, open Mexico to greater foreign investment, and to pave the way for the reform of Mexicos communal agricultural system. Consti tutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Mexican Congress. Never theless, with over 30 seats slated to go to PRI legislati v e allies, incl ding the Party of the National Cardenista Reconstruction Front or PFCRN, the PRI al most will surely control the 334 votes it needs to push through amendments. The PRIs ability to challenge outdated constitutional laws, such as provisions t hat mandate state control over Mexicos agricultural and energy sectors, also should be bol\\tpd by the PANS likely support for Salinass future free market re forms.

Disputes Over Election Irregularities. Because of the lopsided results in favor of the PRI a nd allegations of election irregularities, the PAN and the floun dering PRD questioned the vote tally in several key elections, most notably in the hotly contested governors races in the central states of San Luis Potosi and Guanajuato. These were the onl y two, out of Mexicos 31 states, where the opposi tion had a realistic chance of defeating the PRI.

In an unprecedented political move in San Luis Potosi, the PAN and the PRD joined forces to back a single candidate, Salvador Nava Martinez, to challenge th e PRIs candidate Fausto Zapata Laredo. The final results gave the PRI 61.1 percent cal activist, denounced the election as the biggest and most elaborate fraud ever perpetrated with the help of computer technol~gy The PRI denied Navas charges and has chal l enged him to prove fraud. So far Nava has not been able to do so. With the support of PAN leader Luis H. Alvarez and PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, Nava refused to lodge an official complaint with the state 1B of the vote, to the opposition coalitions 3 1 .6 percent. Nava, a 77-year-old politi 9 For more information see Joe Keenan The Empire Strikes Back, El Financier0 International, September 2, 1991, p. 13, and Tim Golden, In Mexican Politics, the More it Reforms the More its the Same, The New York Times , August 25,1991, p. E4. 10 The PFCRN is a centrist party, whose ties to PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas are in name only. While it once supparted Cardenas, the PFCRN since has dropped its left-wing plaffonn and now is an ally of the PRI 11 Keenan,op. cit 1 2 See Andrea Dabrowski, MexicanVoteTally AngersOpposition, The Washington Post, August 22,1991 p. A15 6 electoral authorities, as Mexicos electoral law requires, claiming at an August 21 Mexico City press conference that Behind them is the PRI. We do not t r ust them Thexe had been great concern that the September 26 governors inauguration in San Luis Potosi would be marred by protests and violence by opposition support ers. Nava stated several times following the August 18 election that he would as sume the p osition as the states moral governor and would challenge Zapatas inauguration through civil disobedience and.public rallies. Nevertheless, the cere mony, attended by Salinas, attracted only a few protests and no violence. Most Mexican and U.S. observers, moreover, believe that whatever few isolated voting irregularities took place, they were not sufficient to change the outcome of the vote.

Governor-Elect Steps Down. The PRIs Ramon Aguirre won the governor ship of Guanajuato with 53 percent of the vote, against 35 percent for his PAN rival Vincente Fox, and 8 percent for Porfiio Munoz Led0 of the PRD. After the election, the PAN complained o f vote fraud and unleashed street demonstrations.

As a result, Aguirre declared on August 29 that he would not take office. The rea son: he wanted to avoid threats of violence and intolerance from sweeping the state and turning it into a political battleground.

Although it surrendered the governors seat, the PRI leadership in Mexico City maintains that their party won the election cleanly, pointing out that independent preelection polls showed Aguirre leading the governorship race with 53.5 per cent of the vote. They stress that the decision for Aguirre to step down was made for the good of the country and Mexican democracy. Another likely factor in the decision, however, was concern that the PANS anger over loosing the race could lead it to join in a nati o nal anti-PRI coalition with the PRD. PAN leaders in fact, had threatened following August 18 to end the tenuous cooperation that they recently had maintained with the PRI in the Mexican Congress. Some PAN factions had even threatened to boycott Salinass N o vember 1 State of the Union address to the Mexican Congress, as well as the 1994 presidential elections As a result of Aguirres resignation, the PAN won an important political vic tory on August 30 when Carlos Medina Plascencia, the PAN mayor of the city o f Leon, was named by the state Congress interim governor of Guanajuato. The an nouncement was met with disbelief by approximately 700 local PRI hardliners who, in defiance of the PRI leadership in Mexico City, occupied the state Con gress for 36 hours in a n attempt to prevent state deputies from choosing an in terim governor. Medina, nevertheless, took office on September 26, claiming that his main objective as governor is to revive the electoral list and do all that is nec essary to guarantee clean and fr ee elections.

PRI Victory Predicted. Because of the PRDs poor showing in the elections and its declining popularity in Mexico, PRD leader Cardenas is trying to question the legitimacy of the entire election process-something that no other party is doing. A ccording to Sergio Sarmiento, a leading newspaper columnist and radio commentator in Mexico City, Cardenas claimed that the elections were the big 7 gest fraud Mexico] has ever seen. Yet, Sarmiento points out, a series of pre electoral opinion surveys, co n ducted by different polling organizations and spon sored by institutions of all political persuasions, consistently showed the PRI win ning nationwide with 60-to-64 percent of the vote. An election day exit poll con ducted by a Gallup affiliate on the day of the voting fmcast a PRI ~ctory with 62 percent of the ballots. Sarmiento stresses that It is hard to believe that all of these surveys would have come so close in percentage terns to the results of mas sively fraudulent e1ections.l3 Instances of tradit i onal electoral fraud at the national level, such as ballot box stuffing or stealing and voter intimidation, were few and far between on August 18 according to Sarmiento. Those irregularities that did occur, including the in complete distribution of voter r egistration cards, isolated allegations of ballot-box stuffing or stealing, the barring of poll-watchers, the selective closing of polling stations, and the delayed release of the computerized results, nevertheless give ammunition to Salinass opponents an d have prevented the PRI from winning the unquestioned electoral triumph it wanted Cooperation Threatened. Most important, the electoral kgularities could threaten to disrupt the reasonably good working relationship that had developed between the PRI and t h e PAN since Salinass 1988, election to the Presidency. It is the PAN that has pmvided the Salinas administration with crucial support in the Mexican Congress on such important legislation as last years Electoral Re form Act and the bank reprivatization bi ll.

Internal division and vague campaign platforms are two key reasons why Mexi can opposition parties fared poorly in the elections. The top campaign issue cham pioned by the PAN and the PRD was not a policy matter but was whether the elec toral process w ould be free and fair. The PAN, which in past elections promoted free market reform as its number one platform issue, found itself going into the mid-terms with most of its economic policy proposals already co-opted by the PRI. The socialist PRD, meanwhil e, which wants strong state control reestab lished over the Mexican economy and Mexico to distance itself from the U.S was no longer viewed as a realistic alternative by the increasingly pro-free market and pro-U.S. Mexican pple.

As a result, the Salinas g overnments successful free market economic program put the PRD and the PAN on the defensive, and left them with nothing other than electoral technicalities for their candidates to discuss. During the campaign, for in stance, Cardenas claimed that The elec t ion imposes itself over and above all other issues. This concentration by the opposition on the election itself, rather than on economic and social issues, apparently conceded the issues, and hence the election, to the PRI 13 Sergio Sarmiento, Mexican Ele c tions: WinnerTakes All, The Wall Street Journal, August 23,1991, pA7 14 Damian Fraser, Pivotal Polling, The Financial Times, August 15,1991, p.10 8 SALINAS Despite the isolated complaints of voting irregularities, one clear sign that the mid-term election s were a PRI success was the high voter turnout-estimated at 52.4 percent of all potential voters and 65.4 percent of registered voters. This was the highest election turnout in recent Mexican history In the 1988 presidential elections only 50 percent of t h e registed voters turned out. The high August 18 turnout demonstrates not only support for the Salinas xwolution and that the PRI ran effective candidates, but also that voter confidence in the Mexican political system is growing AND THE CHANGING FACE OF MEXICAN POLITICS The PRIs 62 years in power make it the longest-governing party in the world.

After only narrowly winning the 1988 presidential election against the National Democratic Front (FDN) leftist coalition led by Cardenas, Salinas vowed to end one -party rule in Mexico and launch, with the support of the opposition parties, a full-scale electoral reform. It is widely accepted that the PRI had to resort to fiaud to obtain the 51 percent of the vote that it needed to win the 1988 elections. The FDN c ame in second with one-third of the vote.

To compound problems for the PRI, Salinas was iiewed as a weak president and was extremely unpopular when he entered office. To enhance his and the PRIs image, he immediately cracked down on unpopular and corrupt p arty bosses and labor leaders, embarked on a program to modernize Mexicos econ omy, and called for political reforms. While there is no questioning the success of his economic reform program, allegations of campaign and election manipulation in the mid-te rm elections may signal that more work needs to be done to bring genuine democracy to Mexico.

I Salinas and Political Reform In his December 1,1988, inaugural address, Salinas called for a complete revi sion of the electoral code through a National Accord for the Expansion of Mexicos] Demucratic Life. This accord, he stated, would seek to eliminate voting irregularities during elections, modernize and democratize the party sys tem, place strict democratic standards and rules on politicians, and institute s weep ing political reform developed through a consensus of Mexicos political parties.

At Salinass requezt, Mexicos Federal Electoral Commission formed on Janu ary 9,1989, a Special Commission for Public Hearings on Electoral Reform. This special commission , consisting of the Minister of the Interior, one member of the Chamber of Deputies, one member of the Senate, and one representative from the six leading opposition parties in the Chamber of Deputies, held 12 hearings dur ing the first half of 19

89. Dur ing these hearings representatives from Mexicos po litical parties, political analysts, and electoral experts, offered opinions and made recommendations on how to fashion a new electoral process 9 These recommendations were reviewed by Mexicos political p arties, which then drafted their own proposals for political reform. These proposals subse quently were debated in the House of Deputies, before being incorporated into the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Fbcedures (COFIPE).

This new electoral code was approved on July 15,1990, by 85 percent of the Chamber of Deputies and was accepted by all the major parties except the PRD.

Cardenas rejected it, claiming that the new law is undemocratic and that the government should be prohibited from playing any role in electoral refom. He stressed that such matten should be left to the parties.

The COFIPE establishes a legal foundation and organizational structure to guar antee the impartial administration and supervision of electoral regulations, creates an impartial body to resolve electoral disputes, enforces legal sanctions for viola tions o f electoral regulations, upholds professional civil service standards in the administration of electoral responsibilities, and expands the public monitoring of election results.

The most prominent features of the COFWE and subsequent electoral refonns Crea tion of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE The IFE is an impar tial, multi-party organization authorized to organize, administer, and validate elec tion procedures and results throughout Mexico. Its other responsibilities include the development of accu r ate new electoral rolls, the distribution of new electoral credentials, and multiparty monitoring at voting sites. It also is tasked to validate winning candidates, provide immediate official polling results, and guarantee con stant access to elections ta l lies for all political parties. Opposition parties com plain, however, that the PRI retains effective control over the institution Introduction of the Federal Electoral Tribunal. This Mexico City based organization mediates all federal electoral disputes a nd serves as an inde pendent oversight commission wkh the authority to overrule decisions made by the IFEs General Council. The tribunal is comprised of 21 magistrates nominated by the president and elected hy two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies. Each m e mber is requkd to have a law degree, at least three years of legal experience and must not have sewed in any electoral or party post during the previous six years. The tribunal also has four regional branches to mediate election disputes at the state and l ocal level Overhauling of the voter list and distribution of new voter registra tion cards. The IFE last April 30 completed its four-month drive to develop a new voter registration list for the mid-term elections which was free of the double registrations of PRI supporters and registration of deceased voters that plagued the old list.16 The new list contains over 39 million voters out of the estimated 45 are 15 For more information =The Mexican Agenda, op. cit 16 SeeIhe Heritage Foundations Mexico Watch No . 13, May 1991 10 million Mexicans 18 years of age or older. The opposition claims that of the 39 million on the electoral roll, only about 36 million have received their voter cards which are necessary to vote. Cardenas charges that those without voter ca r ds pre dominantly are opposition supporters. The PRI denies this, claiming that the in complete delivery of voter cards was due to the inability to locate individuals and to human em Tougher criminal penalties for election fraud. The COFIPE makes a broad r ange of electoral misfeasances that formerly were punishable under Mexi can civil law punishable by Mexicos criminal law code. Now illegal m the alter ing of voting booth documents, tampering with final election results, and intimi dating voters. Such pra c tices almost never have been prosecuted in past Mexican elections In addition to stiff criminal penalties, perpetrators of electoral fraud risk the suspension of their right to vote and hold office for one to five years Increased use of primaries to selec t candidates. Senator Luis Donald0 Colosio, the President of the PRI, stated this June 13, at a meeting in Washington of The Heritage Foundations Mexico Working Group, that a key element of Mexican electoral reform is the process of selecting candidates. I n the past, candi dates, including presidential candidates were hand picked by party leaders. The PRI today is increasingly using democratic primaries to choose candidates for fed eral office. Democratically chosen candidates will be more popular with the M exican people and will be more accountable for their actions than those chosen through back room deal making Use of exit polls to measure voting trends and results. The August 18 elections saw the widespread use of exit polls in major urban areas, includi n g Mexico City, Montemy, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosi, to measure voting trends and election results. In such polls, voters are approached by interviewers after they have voted and given a questionnaire containing a wide variety of vote related and demo g raphic questions. This data are immediately processed and re leased as an early indication of how the vote is likely to proceed. Example: the Gallup Organization on August 19 released data from an exit poll showing the PRI winning 62.7 percent of the vote . Exit polls help to combat and deter voting fraud by offering a benchmark by which to compare the final election tallies Democratic polling station procedures. Voting booth officials now are selected through a lottery of registered voters and are not desi g nated by the gov ernment. Each party, moreover, is entitled to place two representatives at each of Mexicos nearly 90,OOO voting booths. Additional measures to curb ballot box stuffing and double voting include punching holes in voter registration cards a fter their use and crossing off names from voting booth lists after an individual votes.

The Federal Electoral Institute also has ordered the use of transparent ballot boxes and indelible ink 11 The Political Parties Aside from the ruling PRI, the two most important political parties that partici pated in the mid-term elections were the center-conservative PAN and the leftist PRD. Seven other smaller parties also ran ~andidates The National Action Party (PAN The PAN, which slipped to third place be hind Ca r denass leftist coalition following the 1988 presidential elections, has emerged from this years mid-tern elections as the second strongest party in Mex ico. The PANS re-emergence largely is the result of its important legislative role over the past three y ears as a strong supporter of Salinass free market economic reform program. The PANS support for economic reform is not new. It long has championed such free market economic reforms as the privatization of state owned industries, free trade, and the dereg ulation of the Mexican economy, all of which are increasingly popular policies in Mexico.

The PAN received approximately 18 percent of the vote in the mid-term elec tions, one percentage point higher than it received in the 1988 presidential elec tions whe n businessman Manuel Clouthier was its candidate for president. The PAN today is led by Luis H. Alvam who is a lawyer, a long-time PAN activist and a former presidential candidate for the PAN. By winning the governorship in the state of Baja California on July 2,1989, the PAN was the first opposition party in modern Mexican history to control a state government. The PAN has strong ties to Mexican industrialists and the middle class, and has a platform which advocated electoral refm, law and order, individu al freedom, national ism, family values, human rights, and Catholic values. The PANS main criticism of the Salinas government is that democratic refm is taking a back seat to eco nomic reform.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD The PRD was created in September 1988 following Cuauhtemoc Cardenass controversial defeat at the hands of Salinas in the presidential elections two months earlier. Many indepen dent observers believe that the PRI managed to.pull off the victory only through widespread fraud . The official results gave Cardenas 31 percent of the vote to Salinass stunning 5 1 percent, the lowest ever tallied by a PRI presidential candi date.

Cardenas is the son of former Mexican President Lazar0 Cardenas, who served between 1934 and 1940 and ex propriated in 1938 the property of U.S. oil compa nies in Mexico. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas also is a former Governor and Senator from the Pacific coast state of Michoacan and a long-time left-wing political activ ist. Cardenas ran in the election as the leader of a leftist multi-party coalition 17 These were the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (PARM Mexican Democratic Party (PDM the Mexican Ecology Party 0, the Party of the Cardenista Front of National Reconsauction 0, the Popular Socialist Party WS t he Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT and the Labor Party

0. Parties must receive at least 1.5 percent of the votes cast to retain their legal status as political parties 12 known as the National Democratic Front (FDN Following the elections, many of the sm aller parties that comprised the FDN defected from the coalition. The only party that remained loyal was the Mexican Socialist Party (PMS which had evolved from the former Mexican Communist party. PMS supporters ranged from Stalinists to socialists.18 To a void the bureaucratic and legal difficulties of creat ing a new opposition party, Cardenas merely renamed the PMS the PRD.While the PRD quickly emerged as the leading leftist opposition party in Mexico, its rad ical ideology, which supports strong ties to Cuba, state control over the economy and trade protectionism; and links to Mexico's communist left have proved a lia bility in an increasingly conservative Mexico The PRD was the PRI's most serious challenger from late 1988 until the mid term elections. I t has only itself to blame for its poor showing at the polls on Au gust

18. Divided between radical leftists and PRI defectors, the PRD lacks the co hesiveness to function effectively as a political party. Moreover, by opposing the current NAFI'A talks, c alling for a halt to the privatization of state owned indus try in Mexico, and targeting the U.S. as Mexico's enemy-all unpopular posi tions in Mexico-the PRD has isolated itself from the Mexican mainstream. For example, Cardenas during the election campa ign said "The voters will be against a free trade agreement [with the U.S and in favor of a Latin America pact of inte gration All polls, however, show just the op site: Well over 50 percent of the Mexican people favor free trade with the U.S.

Such unpopular leftist rhetoric, combined with the single-issue election plat form of focusing on the technicalities of the electoral process, dismayed voters and almost surely helped relegate the PRD to a distant third place finish.

The Waning Influence of the Mexic an Left By receiving roughly 18 percent of the nationwide vote in the mid-term elec tions, compared to the PRD's 8 percent, the PAN is now Mexico's leading opposi tion party. The PRD was the big loser, failing to win any directly-elected federal seats. It s candidates received only 8.2 percent of the votes for the House of Depu ties, an estimated 3.9 percent of the votes for the Senate seats, and no governor ships. The PAN, which was awarded the interim governorship in Guanajuato managed to gain 17.7 percen t of the vote for the Senate and 18 percent for the House of Deputies. The PAN in fact gained one Senate seat from the Pacific coast state of Baja California, this represents one of only three Senate seats currently in the hands of the opposition.

The powe r and influence of the Mexican Left peaked soon after the Cardenas led FDN defeat in the 1988 presidential elections. Following the elections, there were widespread allegations of vote fraud, including ballot box stuffing, double 58 18 George W. Gnyson Th e 1989 Mexican State and Local Elections CSIS Latin American Election Study Series, June 26,1989, p. 6 19 Matt Moffett VotersTum Against the Left in Mexico The Wall Street Journal, August 15,1991, p. AS 13 voting by PRI supporters, the manipulation of vote counts, intimidation of opposi tion supporters, and a suspicious breakdown of the computer system that tallied the votes. Cardenas immediately declared that the PRI had stolen the election claiming that there had been a technical coup detat. He declared h i mself the victor called for street demonstrations, and boycotted the Salinass inaugura tion 2d The PRI and Salinas, however, recovered quickly. Salinas swiftly launched his pmgram to reform Mexicos political and.electoral system to prevent future dis pute s and fraud charges. As important, he launched his revolutionary program of economic reforms to revitalize Mexicos economy and bring tangible economic rewards to the Mexican people. As a result, Mexico today is a very different coun try than it was in 1987 , the year before Salinass election.

Four years ago, Mexico was suffering from severe economic problems. It had a real annual growth rate estimated at only 1.7 percent, an inflation rate of 159 per cent, and foreign investment levels declining by 0.3 percent from the previous year.

Steady Growth. This all has changed. Under Salinas, Mexico has grown eco nomically for four straight years. This year economic growth is expected to reach 4.5 percent, inflation is down to a projected 17 percent, and foreign inv estment is expected to increase by an estimated 15 percent from last year. Salinass program of free trade and internal free market reforms, in the meantime, is becoming in creasingly attractive to the Mexican people. An August 9 Gallup poll, for exam ple, revealed that 62 percent of Mexicans believe that foreign investment is a very good idea and that 56 percent think that trade liberalization is very good for Mexico?l By opposing Salinass free-market revolution, the PRD has isolated itself politi cally an d has its lost popular appeal in Mexico. PRD leadership, moreover, has been weakened by the waning attraction of socialist political and economic solu tions worldwide. Cardenass outmoded platform, based on a strong suspicion of the U.S the reversal of Sali n ass privatization program, protection of Mexicos socialist agrarian system, a radical foreign policy backing such communist tyrants as Cubas Fidel Castro, and the rejection of the U.S.-Mexico free trade area agree ment puts the PRD out of step with the go a ls and ambitions of the Mexican peo ple; Consequently, the August 9 Gallup poll closely mirrored the mid-term elec tion results, showing that only 5 percent of the those polled supported the PRD cialist and communist principles. Salinas and his team of U. S .-educated free mar ket reformers set the course to turn Mexico from one of the worlds most statist economies to one of the most open and dynamic The PRI quickly capitalized on the PRDs dogmatic adherence to discredited so 20 Fraser, op. cit 21. A Proud C o untry Advances Economically and Politically. Epocu (Mexico City), August 12,1991, p. 2 14 With the help of the PAN, the Salinas administration was able to reverse de cades of socialist government intervention in the Mexican economy and launch a broad prog r am of trade liberalization, privatization, and economic hgulation In fact, by so doing, Mejrico has become a model for free market economic re form and fke trade, not only in the Americas, but throughout the world. As Sali nas clearly understands, these r e fms and policies, more than anything else, will be the key to building a lasting and stable democracy in Mexico CONCLUSION The 1991 midterm elections were the cleanest in Mexican history, despite iso lated cases of vote fraud, voter intimidation, election list and voter card manipula tion, and despite the questionable use of government resources to help the ruling PRI attract votes. In several post-election interviews, Salinas acknowledged im perfections in Mexican democracy but stressed that It is importa n t to recognize that Mexico has already made important progress in its political reform. The elections now may give Salinas the mandate that he needs to continue his free market revolution of free trade, privatization, and possibly even legal reforms de si g ned to spur greater foreign investment in Mexico and allow for the privatiza tion of Mexicos inefficient agricultural system. Through his other bold revolu tion, designed to open Mexicos political system, moreover, Salinas will help as sure that Mexico re mains stable and reaps the rewards of his unprecedented free market policies.

There is a great deal at stake for the U.S. in Mexicos democratic progress. To be sure, there is little that Washington can do to encourage greater democracy in Mexico other than provide public support for Salinass electoral refms. More di rectly, Washing t on can push ahead quickly with the U.S.-Mexico free trade pact While more political reform has occurred under the Salinas administration than any previous Mexican government, Salinas clearly has chosen to concentrate his attention on the economic .agenda, claiming that If you are at the same time in ducing drastic political reform while making strong economic reform you may end up with no reform at all.

Supporting Democracy. While Washington should want to support democracy in Mexico, largely because democ ratic nations tend to be more politically stable and internationally peaceful, and Mexico shares the 1,933-mile border with the U.S Washington also has to be careful not to interfere in Mexicos internal politi cal affairs. Such action could trigger a left i st backlash in Mexico against the U.S and against Salinass pro-free market and free trade policies. American interfer ence also might damage a U.S.-Mexican relationship that is better today than at d any point in history 22 Louie Estrada, MeMcos Ruling PR I at a Crossoads: Will the Party Accept Pluralism or Tighten its Grip?

The Times ofthe Americas* July 24.1991, p.l 15 Chance to Succeed. The U.S. should welcome the political gains that are tak ing root under the Salinas administration, while encouraging c ontinued movement toward gmter political freedom for the Mexican people. Most important, Wash ington should not allow the pace of political reform in Mexico to interfere with the negotiation of the NAFI'A. Only if Mexico gains greater economic prosper ity , something free trade is sure to deliver, will Salinas's democratic experiment have a chance to succeed Michael G. Wilson Policy Analyst 16


Michael G.

Senior Fellow and Director of Government Finance Programs