A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What can Peña Nieto accomplish without a majority in Congress?

To accomplish his reforms, he likely will have to offer re-election to the PAN

Party / coalition Projected percent in Chamber of Deputies Projected seats in 500-member Chamber National Chamber vote percent   Projected percent in Senate Projected seats in 128-member Senate National Senate vote percent
PRI coalition 48.2% 241 38%   47.7% 61 37%
PRD coalition 26.8% 134 27%   21.9% 28 27.3%
PAN 23% 115 25.9%   29.7%
38 26.2%
New Alliance 2% 10 4.1%   0.8% 1 3.7%
Null votes - - 5%   - - 5.7%

Table showing number of seats in current Congress below.

Presidential winner Enrique Peña Nieto did not win the majority on Congress many in his party expected, nor did he win the resounding victory most polls predicted. Still, he won by a significant margin, although the victory has a bitter taste to it following widespread reports of vote buying. What can he accomplish?

He has promised to first go after major structural reforms he sees as key to driving Mexico's economy, which in turn could provide more jobs and fulfill a Peña Nieto campaign promise to reduce poverty. Because he does not have a majority in either house of Congress, he will need the support of another party to enact the reforms. As many National Action Party reform proposals are similar to those of the PRI, the National Action Party is the logical partner. Peña Nieto's desired reforms.

The PAN also wants political reforms, such as re-election, that Peña Nieto has been opposed to. Could that be part of the price of a deal with the PAN? On Friday, the third place finisher in the presidential race, the PAN's Josefina Vázquez Mota, said she was willing to deal with the PRI on labor and political reforms. Story, Frontera (PDF). On Wednesday, columnist Leo Zuckermann said re-election as well as a presidential runoff could be the price the PAN demands for its support. Zuckermann's column.

Former President Vicente Fox, during an appearance at CETYS University in Tijuana earlier this year, said the curse of the Mexican political system has been that presidents have not had a congressional majority to work with since 1997. He said Mexico's three major political parties have not had the maturity to work together to move the nation forward. Story on Fox appearance. Gabriel Guerra, in a talk to the COPARMEX business group in Tijuana in January, had said a divided Congress was a likely outcome because Mexicans don't want to give too much power to a single party. Guerra said Mexicans shuddered at the idea of what Fox might have done had he had a majority. Story on Guerra's talk.

Some have blamed the PRI for not going along with President Felipe Calderón's major reforms, saying the PRI wanted to deny the PAN legislative victories so the PRI could point to the PAN's failures in this year's presidential election.

Others say it is not that easy a call. Some say PRI cooperation with the PAN only went out the window when Calderón and the PAN made deals with the Democratic Revolution Party to run joint candidates to defeat the PRI in major governor's races. Sergio Sarmiento on Wednesday quotes Angel Gurría, the former Mexican finance minister who now heads the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as saying the PAN blocked reforms in the 1990s when the PRI held the presidency. Sarmiento's column (PDF).

What will happen? If the PRI and PAN can make a deal, which likely would involve the PAN swallowing its pride and compromising so that the business of the country can move forward, something can be done. But the PRI may have trouble with its own members, as it is so dependent on labor organizations that would be affected by labor and petroleum reforms. For example, an incoming at-large senator for the PRI is Carlos Romero Deschamps, the Pemex union leader whose young daughter has been jetsetting around the world. prodigy-msn noticias. Still, Peña Nieto's campaign team has been saying it can get the changes accomplished, saying only a PRIista can get them done, following the similar idea that only a Republican, President Richard Nixon, could have begun the process of restoring U.S.-Chinese relations. (Republicans had been the fiercest opponents of China).

Leo Zuckermann wrote last week that the PRI's not meeting electoral expectations has to be worrying the party. He said among the theories about what happened is that voters punished the PRI and rewarded the PAN in PRI-run states with high violence such as Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Nuevo León; states badly governed by the PRI, such as Coahuila and Nuevo León, punished the PRI; voters fearful of the return of the PRI to the presidency split their tickets; and that some PRIistas became disenchanted by Peña Nieto's talk of modernizing the party. His column (PDF).
Story on Zuckermann's April 2011 column on how many politicians mistakenly think that if they come to power, they can magically resolve problems that long have been intractable.
Update, July 14: Former IFE President José Woldenberg writes that new president has two main choices: To try to build a coalition on each piece of legislation, or to try to build a more permanent coalition with which to pass legislation. Column (PDF). On the same page, political commentator Catón says the idea of a presidential runoff should be considered, so that Mexico's president represents not the person who won a plurality, but a majority.

Table showing this year's projected
Congressional representation
compared with previous elections

Party / coalition Chamber of Deputies seats won in 2009 Projected seats in 500-member Chamber, 2012   Senate seats won in 2006 Projected seats in 128-member Senate, 2012
PRI coalition 259 241   38 61
PRD coalition 90 134   36 28
PAN 142 115   52
New Alliance 8 10   1 1

Source: Sergio Sarmiento column, Xinhua

Chamber of Deputies breakdown, 2009:
PRI 237; Green Party 22 (259)
PRD 71; Workers Party 13; Citizens Movement 6 (90)

Chamber of Deputies Breakdown, 2012:
PRI 207; Green Party 34 (241)
PRD 99; Workers Party 19; Citizens Movement 16 (134)

Senate breakdown, 2006:
PRI 32; Green Party 6 (38)
PRD 29; Workers Party 2; Citizens Movement 5 (36)

Senate breakdown, 2012:
PRI 52; Green Party 9 (61)
PRD 22; Workers Party 4; Citizens Movement 2 (28)

Deputies serve three-year terms, without consecutive re-election
Senators serve three-year terms, without consecutive re-election
Council members generally serve three-year terms without consecutive re-election
The president serves a six-year term, without re-election

Update, July 20: Frontera publishes graphics showing congressional, municipal breakdown (PDF)