Divided Government in Comparative Perspective

By Robert Elgie | Go to book overview
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4 Divided Government in Mexico's Presidentialist Regime: the 1997-2000 Experience

Joseph L. Klesner

Divided government at the national level came to Mexico after the 1997 federal congressional elections. Prior to that year, Mexico displayed one of the most unified national governments in the world. Indeed, the dominance of Mexico's president led one scholar to characterize the position as a limited-term dictatorship, writing, 'Mexicans avoid personal dictatorship by retiring their dictators every six years' (Brandenburg, 1964 : 141). From 1988 onward, however, the emergence of opposition parties and their representation in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) began to put constraints on hyperpresidentialism. In the 1997-2000 Congress, the opposition parties' majority in the Chamber of Deputies forced President Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) to act like presidents in many other presidential systems, namely, he had to build coalitions to pass the legislation that he needed to govern. Mexico's new president, Vicente Fox (2000-6), the first president from a party other than the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) since it was founded in 1929, will also face a legislature in which his party, the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), lacks a majority in either house.

To understand the operation of divided government in Mexico we must first appreciate the remarkably unified government that had characterized the nation from the mid-1930s until 1988. 1 With divided government has come

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