Mexico's consolidation of a strong democracy

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Mexico’s consolidation of a strong democracy

Luis Hernandez
V006841 98

University of Victoria
March 2010

Latin America is widely known as a region filled with political turmoil, military coupes, and illiberal democracies. In an attempt to challenge authoritarianism, most countries have successfully evolved to more democratic forms of government. Democratization is considered as thetransition of a country’s regime to a democratic form of rule (Mazzuca, 2002). While many countries in Latin America forced democracy into their governments fighting through military dictatorships and political madmen, Mexico’s case is unique (Karl, 1990). Mexico is a perfect example of a successfully democratized state (Hague & Harrop, 2007). Even though democratization might be successful,countries must seek to consolidate their new form of rule. Without the consolidation of democracy new democratic countries can easily return to their previous regimes (Hague & Harrop, 2007). This is no easy process. New democracies in Latin America struggle to erase the legacy of authoritarian regimes. Albeit the consolidation of a democratic system in Mexico is pretty strong, the quality of Mexico’sdemocracy is currently endangered (Mazzuca, 2002). This paper argues that the process of democratization in Mexico is complete and so is the consolidation of its democratic system; however it is the consolidation of a democracy of quality that is still in process. Corruption and the legacy of authoritarianism represent obstacles to the construction of a truly democratic system in Mexico.
Beforeaddressing how it is that corruption and the legacy of an authoritarian regime affect the consolidation of strong democracy in Mexico, the process of its democratization must be understood. Only then, the notion of having a consolidated democracy without a fully democratic system is comprehensible.
Democratization in Mexico differs from others in Latin America due to the absence of a coup d´état andmilitary dictatorships; but it is mainly unique because of the presence of elections throughout the rule of its authoritarian regime. After the Mexican revolution in 1917, a one party system emerged in the 1920’s, where only one party, the Partido Revolucionario Instiucional (PRI), would dominate all political aspects of the country, including elections (Hague & Harrop, 2007). Instead of having anauthoritarian regime ruled by a military dictatorship, Mexico was under the authoritarian rule of a single party. According to Mazzuca (2002), the key indicator of a successful democratization is the presence of elections. If we focus on his definition, Mexico was long democratized. If well elections were nowhere close to being fair and competitive, they were, however, regular. This gave Mexicothe “legitimacy of [a democratic] domestic governance in international society” (Hobson, 2008, pg. 75). During this period of time (1929-200), Mexico lacked from political competition, civil society was severely oppressed, and corruption was deeply rooted in the political system (Hague & Harrop, 2007). Applying Mazzuca’s (2002) definition, it is argued that during the one-party-ruledemocratization was reached. Nevertheless, the consolidation of democracy was definitely absent.
Mexico’s democratization is unique. The one-party government avoided a coup d’état even though social and political restlessness reached alarming levels; PRI knew precisely when to give in to the opposition and when to stop political threats (such as “power hungry” politicians) as democratic values spread aroundthe world in the 1990’s (Karl, 1990). Had this not been the case Mexico would have never reached the democratic status it enjoys today. The one-party rule ended in 2000 when the opposition party, Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), won the presidential elections with around 35 % of the votes, reinforcing the belief that Mexico was ready for democracy (Hague & Harrop, 2007). Elections would have never...
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