The Course of Mexican History

By Michael C. Meyer; William L. Sherman et al. | Go to book overview

45
Mexico since 1988: The Post-
Revolutionary Era

THE ELECTIONS OF 1988 AND MEXICAN
DEMOCRATIZATION

The 1980s were a decade of democratization or redemocratization throughout much of Latin America. In most of the region, this phenomenon meant replacing military dictatorships with civilian governments chosen in an open or a relatively open electoral process. In Mexico, democratization was something very different. The army had ceased to call the political shots in Mexican politics decades earlier. Democratization in Mexico meant opening up the political system, recognizing that it had systemic weaknesses, and making it more responsive to the Mexican citizenry. The process was so far from innocuous, for it meant that the influential political bosses in the country would have to share their power with others.

The basic problem was not new to the 1980s. Because of Mexico’s unique twentieth-century experience, one political party had gained almost absolute dominance. This official party, under different names, had won every election for president and every election for the thirtyone governorships since 1929. If an occasional member of an opposition party could be found occupying a seat in the national Congress, it was probably not because he or she had won a congressional race but because Mexico’s electoral law permitted the seating of a limited number of defeated candidates based on the percentage of votes cast for their respective parties in the last election. Mexican democracy had become increasingly diluted and deformed. For most, presidential elections were little more than a tiring ritual.

As the official party became almost synonymous with the government, and thus commanded huge resources as well as incredible patronage, elections became a farce. Mexico’s democracy was a one-party system in which the citizens, for all practical purposes, were denied the element of choice, the most fundamental democratic right of all.

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