Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Electoral Reforms Expected to Gain Momentum

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Electoral Reforms Expected to Gain Momentum

Article excerpt

Mexico's high court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion, SCJN) set the stage for the Mexican Congress to begin discussions about political and electoral reforms with a decision to allow Veracruz state to expand the term in office for mayors and other municipal elected officials to four years from the current three years. The SCJN decision, announced Aug. 23, upholds the changes to the Veracruz state Constitution as compatible with Article 116 of Mexico's federal Constitution.

The SCJN's decision could open the door for other changes in Mexico's electoral and political structure when the Congress convenes in September. Some proposals that have been put forth in the past include the possibility of reelection and a runoff for the presidential election. But the center-left parties, led by the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), and the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) have already served notice to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which won the presidency and a plurality in the Congress, that they will be seeking new laws that add transparency to campaign financing and establish severe penalties in cases of vote-buying. Key leaders from the PRD and PAN met in mid-August to set an agenda for electoral reforms.

Veracruz reform allows mayors to serve additional year

The question on the number of years that mayors could serve in office came to the SCJN after the center-left political party Movimiento Ciudadano filed a complaint charging that the changes that the state legislature made to Article 70 of the state Constitution violate Article 116 of the federal Constitution.

But the high court, in a unanimous ruling, decided to allow the changes because there is nothing in the federal Constitution--including Article 116--that stipulates the number of years that a mayor can serve.

Justice Margarita Luna Ramos said the only question that arose was whether the changes in the electoral calendar would affect the election dates, which must coincide with the federal election dates during years of a presidential election. But even that change did not pose a problem. "Outside of that, there is no stipulation in Article 116 that sets the number of years for a mayor to serve," said Luna Ramos said.

"The expansion of the mayoral terms is legal, even though this will cause mayoral elections to be held in different years than those for governor or state legislators," the SCJN said after issuing the verdict.

Gubernatorial elections are held every six years, while state legislative elections occur every three years.

With the SCJN decision, Veracruz would become the first state to allow mayors and state legislators to serve more than a single three-year term. The four-year terms will become effective with mayors and other municipal officers elected in 2013.

The mayors of most of Mexico's cities, including Monterrey and Guadalajara, serve only a single three-year term. The one notable exception is the mayor of Mexico City, who serves six years. But the Mexico City mayor is considered on par with state governors, who serve for six years.

The court's decision could open the door for other state legislatures to make similar changes. "Lawmakers in other states now have the freedom to establish a longer time frame for a mayoral term in office," columnist Pedro Elizalde wrote in the Mexico City daily newspaper La Cronica de Hoy.

But some critics suggested that the changes in Veracruz do not go far enough. Puebla Mayor Eduardo Rivera Perez, who is also president of the national mayors association (Asociacion Nacional de Alcaldes, ANAC), said a better solution is to allow re-election. …

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