Autor: Marek Jáč

 

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According to the Mexican Constitution “(T)he Supreme Executive power of the Union is vested in a single individual known as a President of the Mexican United States.“[1]

Unlike the American president, the Mexican one is elected directly. To become a Mexican president, a candidate has to be a Mexican citizen by birth; 35 years old on election-day; not to be a member or priest of any religious cult; not to be in the military active service for six month before the election-day takes place; not to be secretary or undersecretary of State, chief or general secretary of an Administrative Department, Attorney General, State Governor six months before the election-day takes place.[2]PresidentMexico5

Article 83 of the Mexican Constitution forbids the reelection and establishes the inauguration of the President on December 1 and the President can hold his office for six years.[3]

Article 84 and article 85 of the Constitution deal with the situation when the President is definitely absent or a new President is not elected. Article 86 is related to circumstance under which the President is authorized resign from the office. Article 87 orders the President to appear in front of the Congress, on the inauguration day, to take the defined oath. Article 88 quite awkwardly states the President shall not leave the national territory without an authorization approved by either the Congress or the Permanent Commission.[4]

Article 89 is the most important article because it specifies the Presidential powers. According to this article, the President can promulgate and execute the laws enacted by the Congress; he or she can appoint and remove the secretaries of state, to remove the diplomatic agents and the senior officials of the Treasury and to appoint and remove other Union’s employees whose appointment is established by the constitutional procedure; he or she can nominate the Supreme Court justices, Attorney General,diplomatic agents, and general consuls, however, the appointment has to be ratified by the Senate; he or she can appoint army officers; he or she commands the permanent army forces. The President declares, according to the law, war; directs the nation’s international policy, negotiates international treaties that shall be ratified by the Senate. Then, article 89 provides several other characteristics of less important presidential powers. The last provision of the article 89 states that the President shall have power: ‘(t)o execute the other powers vested in him by him in this Constitution.’[5]

Article 71, which is not in the Chapter III – The Executive Power, gives the President other strong power – the right to introduce a bill in Congress. Article 72 allows the President to veto the bill. However, the veto can be overridden by two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.[6]

As we examined, the formal arrangement of the President in the Mexican constitutional system is without no doubt inspired by the U. S. Constitution. Using the experience of its northern neighbor, the Mexican constitution applies to principles of separation of powers and checks and balances (approval by the Senate for presidential appointments; presidential veto).

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However, there is a big difference between the formal and real position of the Mexican president.

 

Presidencialismo

In practice, the position of the President is much stronger than the Constitution assumes. “Presidencialismo” or “Perfect dictatorship (La Dictadura Perfecta)” dominated Mexico’s constitutional order from the very beginning of the Revoluion throughout much of the twentieth century. Some scholars refer to the “Presidencialismo“ as moderate authoritarian[7] or semi-authoritarian regime[8] where the president is dominant thanks to the support of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).

Since the Revolution, the PRI was able to dominate Congress until the 1990s. Due to this fact, the President, being a leader of the PRI, did not face any opposition in Congress and de facto became the principal legislative organ. Even in the 1990s, when the PRI’s dominance was in decline, for example from 1991 to 1997, the executive branch initiated four-fifths of all bills that were passed in Congress.[9] Since the PRI dominated a political field, the President knew that when he introduces some policy there will almost no opposition and no obstacle to pass it through.

Moreover, the PRI was able to institute a corporate relationship between the state and variety of interest groups. Trade unions, ironically big business, state legislatures, bureaucracy, TV-media (see cartoon), peasants, and midlle-class professional groups – all of them became to some extent dependent or bound to the PRI’s dominant position. This concept, where an opposition is scarce resource, secured to the President very tight control over the Mexican political scene. Practically, any government policy stems personally from the President under the “Presidencialismo“ regime.

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However, since the 1980s or 1990s, the PRI’s political structure started to erode and by the election of opposition candidate Vicente Fox in 2000 the system has completed its transformation. Suddenly, the President had to face hostile and patchy Congress (the PRI still dominated at least the Chamber of Deputies). The semi-authoritarian single-party regime has been replaced by a disempowered presidency and a divided Congress.[10]

Quite ironically, the system was able to survive decades of PRI’s rule and get back to its original intention. Currently, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government can freely counteract each other and thus fulfill the original design of the Mexican Constitution. As said above, the position of the President weakened, now he has to seek coalitions for his policy, he has to take into account Congress, acknowledge the new role of the Mexican Supreme Court and even accept the changing balance of power between the federal and state governments.

However, with the PRI’s departure from the power the system faces new challenges. The occurrence of three political parties along the political spectrum seems very likely to generate a deadlock which prevents adoptions of needed reforms breaking the corporatist nature of the Mexican state.

PresidentMexico1Moreover, after two presidencies of PAN candidates, PRI managed to come back with Piena Nieto to the presidential office. It will be very interesting to observe whether the PRI will be able accommodate itself to new rules.

 

Sources

  • Kahn, Paul W. “Comparative Constitutionalism in a New Key” (2004).Yale Law School Faculty. Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 324.
  • The Political Constitution of the Mexican United States. Translated by Carlos Perez Vázquez, 2005.
  • Joseph L. Klesner. “Political Change in Mexico: Institutions and Identity,” Latin American Research Review, 32:2 (1997): 184-200.
  • Zamora, Stephen; Cossío, José Ramón. “Mexican Constitutionalism after Presidencialismo,” International Journal of Constitutional Law, 4:2 (2006): 411-437.


[1] The Political Constitution of the Mexican United States. Translated by Carlos Perez Vázquez, 2005, Article 81.

[2] Constitution, Article 82.

[3] Constitution, Article 83.

[4] Constitution, Article 84-88.

[5] Constitution, Article 89.

[6] Constitution, Article 71-72.

[7] Joseph L. Klesner, “Political Change in Mexico: Institutions and Identity,” Latin American Research Review, 32:2 (1997): 186.

[8] Stephen Zamora; José Ramón Cossío, “Mexican Constitutionalism after Presidencialismo,” International Journal of Constitutional Law, 4:2 (2006): 421.

[9] Paul W. Kahn, “Comparative Constitutionalism in a New Key” (2004).Yale Law School Faculty. Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 324.

[10] Stephen Zamora; José Ramón Cossío, “Mexican Constitutionalism,” 412.

Titulní foto: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mexico_Flag_Map.svg