Prospects for Stability and Democracy in Mexico
The circumstances in which the Mexican regime found itself in the 1990s had changed so much that the factors that had previously contributed to political stability could have the opposite effect as Mexico approached the twenty-first century. This chapter considers the prospects for continued stability and the potential for movement toward greater political democracy.
This book has argued that strong institutions can make a powerful contribution to political stability. However, if the institutions do not adapt adequately to new demands emanating from society, they may undermine the ability of a regime to endure. As James March and Johan Olsen argue, "By constraining political change, institutional stability contributes to regime instability."1
By 1988 the fortunes of the regime had sunk so low that Carlos Salinas had little to lose and much to gain by attempting to reform the regime. By 1993 he had succeeded to some extent in doing that. 2 Salinas correctly read the mood of the Mexican people, who generally supported his programs for economic growth and change as public opinion polling suggested that a majority of Mexicans were more concerned about the economy than about democracy, at least at that time. 3 During Salinas's term, the regime found itself in the middle of political opinion, having to satisfy demands from both sides. In the short run, Salinas settled on a strategy of minimal political reforms, but as he moved into the last third of his term, it was not clear whether that would be sufficient to satisfy growing opposition demands for participation. However, Salinas seemed to be betting that his reforms would hold the bulk of the population with the PRI. He knew that the presidential election of August 21, 1994, would be the