Reelection issues in new Mexico’s electoral reform

I received some questions regarding reelection issues in this new electoral reform by colleagues from the US, due to conflicting reports out there on the reelection/no-reelection issue (as many may know, the no consecutive reelection rule took place in 1933). An additional question is how to understand the role political parties will play in deciding if someone can be reelected or not. Although my answers are far from complete, I want to offer a potential interpretation of the new rules.

The new provisions (passed in December of 2013, and officially sanctioned and published in February of 2014) just regulate term limits. Specific dates when the provisions start to rule political life are mentioned in the so called “transitorios” (sections thereof, usually regulating specific logistics, also called “transitory articles of the Constitutional Amendments”). Please find below reelection regulations, and then the corresponding “transitorio”. In short, term limits for federal and local legislators are 12 years, and for mayors are 6 years. Reelection for federal legislators will start until 2018. In the case of local legislators and mayors, restrictions discard current local deputies and mayors to get reelected. Specific dates will depend on which years Mexico’ states hold local elections. In sum, the new reelection rule may benefit the next generation of local deputies and mayors, not the current one.

Reelection of the members of House and the Senate:

 Artículo 59. Los Senadores podrán ser electos hasta por dos periodos consecutivos y los Diputados al Congreso de la Unión hasta por cuatro periodos consecutivos. La postulación sólo podrá ser realizada por el mismo partido o por cualquiera de los partidos integrantes de la coalición que los hubieren postulado, salvo que hayan renunciado o perdido su militancia antes de la mitad de su mandato.

 DÉCIMO PRIMERO.- La reforma al artículo 59 de esta Constitución será aplicable a los diputados y senadores que sean electos a partir del proceso electoral de 2018.

 [Article 59. Senators would be elected to two consecutive terms and Deputies for up to four consecutive terms. Nomination shall be conducted by the same party or by any political party who ran in the coalition which they have been nominated, unless legislators have resigned or lost their party membership before the first half of their term.
ELEVENTH .- Reform of the Article 59 of this Constitution shall apply to deputies and senators who are elected from the 2018 elections.]

[Translated by the author]

Reelection of local deputies:

 Artículo 116. …

I. …

II. …

Las Constituciones estatales deberán establecer la elección consecutiva de los diputados a las legislaturas de los Estados, hasta por cuatro periodos consecutivos. La postulación sólo podrá ser realizada por el mismo partido o por cualquiera de los partidos integrantes de la coalición que los hubieren postulado, salvo que hayan renunciado o perdido su militancia antes de la mitad de su mandato.

 DÉCIMO TERCERO.- La reforma al artículo 116 de esta Constitución en materia de reelección de diputados locales, así como a diputados a la Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal, no será aplicable a los legisladores que hayan protestado el cargo en la legislatura que se encuentre en funciones a la entrada en vigor del presente Decreto.

[ Article 116. …

I. …
II. …
State Constitutions must establish reelection of local deputies to the legislatures of the States, for up to four consecutive terms. Nomination shall be conducted by the same party or by any political party who ran in the coalition which they have been nominated, unless legislators have resigned or lost their party membership before the first half of their term.
THIRTEENTH .- Reform of the Article 116 of this Constitution on reelection of local deputies and deputies to the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City, shall not apply to legislators who have took their seats in the legislature that is in functions to the entry into force of this Decree.]

[Translated by the author]

Reelection of Mayors:

 Artículo 115. Los estados adoptarán, para su régimen interior, la forma de gobierno republicano,  representativo, democrático, laico y popular, teniendo como base de su división territorial y de su organización política y administrativa, el municipio libre, conforme a las bases siguientes:

I. …

Las Constituciones de los estados deberán establecer la elección consecutiva para el mismo cargo de presidentes municipales, regidores y síndicos, por un período adicional, siempre y cuando el periodo del mandato de los ayuntamientos no sea superior a tres años. La postulación sólo podrá ser realizada por el mismo partido o por cualquiera de los partidos integrantes de la coalición que lo hubieren postulado, salvo que hayan renunciado o perdido su militancia antes de la mitad de su mandato.

 DÉCIMO CUARTO.- La reforma al artículo 115 de esta Constitución en materia de reelección de presidentes municipales, regidores y síndicos no será aplicable a los integrantes que hayan protestado el cargo en el Ayuntamiento que se encuentre en funciones a la entrada en vigor del presente Decreto.

 [Article 115. The States shall adopt for their internal government, the popular, representative, democratic, laic and republican form of government, having as the basis of their territorial division and political and administrative organization the Free Municipality, in accordance to the following principles:
I. …
State Constitutions must establish reelection of Mayors, legal representatives and councilmen of Municipal Councils, for up to one additional term, provided that the term of office of the municipalities does not exceed three years. Nomination shall be conducted by the same party or by any political party who ran in the coalition which they have been nominated, unless Mayors, legal representatives and councilmen of Municipal Councils, have resigned or lost their party membership before the first half of their term.
FOURTEENTH.- Reform of the Article 116 of this Constitution on reelection of Mayors, legal representatives and councilmen of Municipal Councils, shall not apply to officials who have took their seats in the Municipal Council that is in functions to the entry into force of this Decree.]

[Translated by the author, all translations were based on an English translation of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States made by Mexico’ Supreme Court of Justice  https://www.scjn.gob.mx/leyes/Documents/Political_Mexican_States_2008.pdf]

The entire new provision can be found in the Official Gazette website (http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5332025&fecha=10/02/2014). As noted by Gabriel Tarriba, the new Article 115 is problematic because currently there are some states, such as Coahuila, Veracruz, and Hidalgo, in which mayors face a 4-year term, in opposition to the new reelection rule, which only benefits municipalities with a 3-year term http://estepais.com/site/?p=50282).

Now, regarding the role of political parties, it is worthy to explain several points. The final version of the new provision is not entirely clear:

“La postulación sólo podrá ser realizada por el mismo partido o por cualquiera de los partidos integrantes de la coalición que lo hubieren postulado, salvo que hayan renunciado o perdido su militancia antes de la mitad de su mandato”.

[Nomination shall be conducted by the same party or by any political party who ran in the coalition which they have been nominated, unless they have resigned or lost their party membership before the first half of their term.]

Let’s imagine you are Guadalajara Mayor during the 2018-2021 period, and you ran for the Atlas Party (it is just an example, Atlas is a soccer team), and suddenly you may want to get reelected for the 2021-2024 period. You may have two options: a) stay in the same party all the time all the way (until 2021), or b) abandon the party during the first half of your term, in 2019, but no later.

What the new provision entails, besides reelection, it is this “explicit” prohibition to leave the party during or after primaries in order to get reelected via another political party. This is due to cases of intraparty splits that are highly beneficial to small parties when the PAN, the PRI, or the PRD have the corresponding split. In the past, numerous political leaders went from the PRI to the PRD, and to the PAN after the nomination process, such as primaries or delegates conventions, or just the “dedazo” [the appointment of a candidate by a powerful actor, leaving aside public deliberation, in which the “big finger”, usually the president or the governor, makes the appointment. “Dedazo” literally means “pointing out with the big finger”].

Gubernatorial elections in states such as Zacatecas (1998), Baja Sur (1999), and Tlaxcala (1998) are exemplary cases of intraparty splits, and Miguel Hidalgo (2009) in the DF (Demetrio Sodi, from the PRI to the PRD to the PAN) was another example a the the municipal level, among many other cases.

Nowadays, perhaps the three main parties are worried about new intraparty splits that arguably would favor MORENA (Andrés Manuel López Obrador’ potential new party), or minor parties, such as Enrique Alfaro campaign in the 2012 gubernatorial elections in Jalisco (who went from the PRD to the MC, and he finished in second place). In sum, last minute intraparty splits can eventually explain this new restriction.

Finally, what seems to remain slightly unclear is how the new provision regarding reelection will regulate independent candidates. In this final version, it is clear that if one gets elected as independent and one remains as independent, then one can run again to get reelected. What remains unclear is what happens if one gets elected as independent, but in the meantime of the first term one becomes partisan, can the former independent candidate run again for the immediate period? A potential interpretation is yes, if and only if one abandons “independence” before the first half of the legislative or mayoral term.

Regarding reelection rates, Maricarmen Nava has found that between 1876 and 1912, during the Porfiriato, almost 47 percent of federal deputies get reelected. After the Mexican Revolution but before the no consecutive reelection rule, that is, between 1917 and 1933, only 10 percent of federal deputies get reelected. Finally, after the no consecutive reelection was passed, that is, between 1934 and 1997, only 14 percent gets reelected in alternate terms (http://visionlegislativa.com/reeleccion-legislativa-historia-y-estadisticas-4dic13/).

At the end, the academic expectation is that legislative bodies and municipal councils can evolve from amateur to professional, due to additional years in office, as explained by one of the main advocates of reelection in Mexico, Alonso Lujambio, who wrote this piece in 1993, criticizing limited proposals by other scholars (http://biblioteca.itam.mx/estudios/estudio/letras32/textos4/sec_1.html).  Although Alonso Lujambio changed his mind regarding term limits (from no limits to two terms before he passed away), his idea about how reelection can make professional deputies seems to permeate some debates around this new reform.

Mexico was the only country without consecutive reelection in the world. Well, this is not exactly true, but the larger point is that  the no consecutive reelection rule was very exceptional. Arguably, this reelection reform would change the political system in different ways. We’ll see.

About Alejandro Diaz Dominguez

Professor, School of Government at Tecnológico de Monterrey. PhD in Political Science at Vanderbilt University. [religion and politics, R, surveys, electoral management bodies] Twitter: @alejdiazd https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3856-5686 View all posts by Alejandro Diaz Dominguez

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: