Mexico's President Felipe Calderon proposed a set of major political reforms in a legislative package that was delivered to the Mexican Congress on December 15 2009. The proposed changes perhaps the most important political reform initiative in decades include run-off elections for future presidential contests and consecutive re-election for several officials and federal legislators.
The initiative seeks to strengthen ties between citizens and the political system and to create incentives to enhance the institutional development of Mexico. It is also aimed at making Mexican officials more accountable to voters and improving citizen participation. "The idea is to give citizens more power, to give them the capacity to shape public life and to strengthen our democracy," Calderon said in a televised address. A summary of the proposed changes to the Mexican Constitution follows.
1. Authorisation for state legislatures and the Federal District Assembly to allow for consecutive elections, up to a period of 12 years, for mayors and other members of municipal councils, as well as heads of boroughs. The initiative states that the proposed changes are necessary in the context of electoral competition and a plural political party system. The proposed reform seeks to enhance the quality of municipal governments, conferring more time to promote long-term government programmes and to enhance accountability.
2. Consecutive re-election of federal deputies and senators for up to 12 years. This proposal seeks to enhance citizens' power to assess the performance of their legislators. The initiative states that allowing the re-election of legislators will enhance the quality, efficiency and continuance of legislative efforts and will result in more experienced and qualified legislators.
3. Reduce the size of the Senate to 96 from 128, and reduce the Chamber of Deputies to 400 from 500. The idea is to facilitate the formation of accords among legislators and more efficient decision-making procedures. The initiative states that the proposed amendments will result in more adequate representation of citizens in Congress, and a better balance among plurality and efficiency, representation and governability. The initiative also states that the changes have been helpful to the formation of legislative bodies in other countries, including Brazil, Ireland, Malta, Estonia, Australia and Canada (British Columbia).
4. Introduce "citizen initiatives" as part of the legislative process. Citizens would have the power to propose law initiatives before the Mexican Congress.
5. Allow for independent candidates for all elected positions. This seeks to strengthen citizen power by permitting the registration of candidates to any elective position without the nomination of a party.
6. Have a second round in presidential elections, if no candidate reaches an absolute majority. Calderon said a runoff election would give the winner a stronger mandate: "It will be guaranteed that whoever has the biggest support will win," he stated. A second round in the elections will promote the coalition of diverse interests as well as accords and negotiations among political parties and candidates.
7. Increase the minimum voting share from 2% to 4%, for parties to keep their registration and access to public financing. This initiative is aimed at guaranteeing the social representation of political parties.
8. Empower the Supreme Court to present legislative initiatives in the area of judiciary. The Supreme Court would be able to improve the functioning of judicial power and the possibility of directly influencing regulatory improvements on matters of constitutional control such as amparo proceedings and, constitutional controversies.
9. Empower the executive to present at the beginning of each legislative session up to two law initiatives that Congress must vote on before the end of the session. If Congress does not vote, the initiative will be considered passed (for constitutional changes, they would be submitted to a citizen referendum).
10. Empower the executive to make observations (partial or total) on the Income Law and Expenditure Law passed by the Congress.
These proposals have received diverse reactions from Mexico's political forces and they will certainly be at the centre of political debate during 2010, when Mexico celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.
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