After much public and legislative wrangling, Mexico’s lower chamber opted to bring the country’s labor code into the twenty-first century. With 361 votes supporting the measure and 129 in opposition, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Party—PVEM) and Partido Nueva Alianza (New Alliance Party—PANAL) voted on November 13 to breathe life into the Mexican economy by overturning rules that have idled Mexico’s economic engine for four decades. The bill was subsequently sent to the Senate for a second time, and passed.
Absent from the new law are much-needed transparency measures intended for unions, whose boards are controlled by powerful union bosses who skim profits and use slush funds to reward friends, prop up political campaigns and finance everything from protests to public campaigns against reformers.
Union transparency and accountability were central to the labor bill submitted by President Felipe Calderón and his PAN party to the lower chamber in September, but the PRI and its allies would not have it. In the end, forgoing strong union transparency and accountability measures allowed the bill to pass. PRI legislators promised to hold debate on union accountability legislation in a future session.
The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD), Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party—PT) and Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement—MC) voted against the bill. In their view, the bill does little to help workers, a lot to support business owners and validates union corruption. As the bill went up for a final vote, deputies from the three parties ran a banner across the chamber´s speaker´s rostrum stating, “Those who betray workers betray their country.”
In the most dramatic proposal for political reform in decades, Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced yesterday a 10-point plan aimed at revamping Mexico’s political system. Among the many reforms, the proposal would allow independent candidates to run for office and relax term-limit rules for legislators, allowing lawmakers and mayors to hold office for up to 12 years.
The legislation would also reduce the number of seats in the chamber of deputies by 20 percent to 400 seats, and reduce the number of senators from 128 to 96. Calderón also included a provision that would require, for the first time, a runoff election in presidential races in which no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of total votes cast. If passed, the reforms would dramatically alter Mexican politics. According to Calderón, “the idea is to give citizens more power, to give them the capacity to shape public life and to strengthen our democracy.”
Reactions to the proposal have been mixed. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) expressed its approval for most of the provisions, but refuted the need for runoffs in presidential races. The Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) rejected the proposal altogether. Gustavo Madero, leader of the Senate’s National Action Party (PAN) party, spoke highly of the proposed reforms, saying they present an opportunity to “leave behind formulas originated in the days of the monolithic PRI.”
Congress will officially debate the proposal in 2010.
Stolen elections and ballot-box stuffing became such the norm in Mexico under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) that observers used to say that even the dead rise and vote on election day. In the mid-term legislative elections on July 5, this time it may be the once-thought moribund PRI that rises from the dead. A newly resurgent PRI in Mexico’s bicameral congress will have consequences for the policy agenda (mostly positive) of President Felipe Calderón and his Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and signal the decline of the leftist Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD)—under its current leadership, maybe not such a bad thing).
At stake in these elections are 128 seats in the Mexican Senate and all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. If polls are to be believed, these elections may dramatically shrink the seats that the PRD gained in the 2006 elections. At the time, many believed this would be the trend, as Mexico appeared cleaved between the Right (PAN) and the Left (PRD). In the 2006 elections, the PRD scored 37 of the one-third-open Senate seats, compared to 57 for the PAN and 32 for the PRI. Most remarkable was that only six years earlier in the 2000 presidential/legislative elections the PRD only managed 17. In the lower-house elections in 2006, Mexico’s standard bearer for the Left, the PRD, did even better scoring 106 seats in the chamber, exceeding the 66 it won in 2000.