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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

How Mexico Elects It’s Leaders — The Rules

from the Jan. 31, 2024 Bulletin

Diego Alfredo Torres Rosete grew up in Mexico City. He lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for 20 years. After returning to Mexico, he worked in the AMLO government’s Secretariat of Mexicans Abroad and International Affairs. He’s now Coordinator of the Frente Amplio de Mexicanos en el Exterior (Broad Front of Mexicans Abroad), a Morena party activist, and an independent journalist.

In the US, any individual can run for President, even if they have no political party. What are the rules in Mexico?

In Mexico presidential candidates represent parties. And parties must register by proving that 3% of the voting population supports them. We have seven parties that passed that test: the rightist parties PAN, PRI, and PRD, and the leftist parties Morena, Partido Trabajadores, and Partido Verde or Green Party. The Partido Verde isn’t really left; it opportunistically allies with whatever party they think will gain them seats. 


Three candidates are running for president. The three rightist parties formed a coalition called the Broad Front for Mexico (Frente Amplio por Mexico or FAM) and are running Xochitl Gálvez; the three lefist parties formed Let's Keep Making History (Seguimos Haciendo Historia or SHH) and are running Claudia Sheinbaum. The Citizens Movement (Movimiento Cuidadanos) is running Jorge Álvarez Máynez.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Xochitl Gálvez: Image/AP; Jorge Álvarez Máynez: Image/X (Twitter)

How were the presidential candidates selected? 


We have no set process. Morena used a public poll to get a sense of the public’s preference, but the winner of the poll is not necessarily the candidate. The candidate must have also proven themselves by acting in accordance with Morena’s principles. Gender balance is also considered.


For example, Morena used a poll in Mexico City to see who the public preferred as their candidate for mayor. The poll chose the police commissioner, García Harfuch; however, the party chose Clara Brugada instead. This method has its dangers — some Harfuch supporters were angry! But luckily, he graciously agreed to work for Brugada’s election.


The other two candidates were chosen through internal discussion among leaders. No party uses primaries state-by-state as in the US.


The US spends more on campaigns than the budgets of small countries. How are campaigns financed?


The government is the biggest funder. It allots each party an amount of money proportional to the number of votes they got in the previous election. So if your party had 20% of the votes, you get 20% of the government’s election funds for your campaign. 


The party may also raise additional private dollars, but that amount cannot be bigger than the amount the government allots. Thus, the amount a party can spend on campaigns is capped — it’s not a race to see who can raise the most money. Of course, this system favors the party in power as they can spend the most.


Mexican law designates three different campaign periods by law. The people selected to run are called “pre-candidates” and from November until January 18, they are in the “pre-candidacy” period. What is the purpose of this period?


During the pre-candidacy, the candidates must work only inside their own party. They work with supporters to make sure they understand the issues of concern, and to hone their messages. They cannot do public events. For example, Claudia was supposed to speak with her supporters in Los Angeles a few months ago in an open air stadium. At the last minute, she had to move it to an indoor location.

Sheinbaum and Nuevo León Governor Samuel García Photo: Especial

During the second period, from January 19 to February 29, the candidates meet with specific constituencies and explore the issues in different regions. For example, Tesla is going to build a huge plant in Nuevo Leon — what are the potential problems? But it's still forbidden for candidates to talk to the media.


The official campaign begins March 1. Since the election is on June 2, the campaign period is only three months.

The Mexican Congress has two houses, a Senate, and a Chamber of Deputies. Can you explain how many there are and how they are chosen?

There are 500 Deputies (similar to  Representatives in the US); 300 are elected directly from local districts from five regions (and gerrymandering goes on in Mexico too). The number of deputies representing each state is based on population.The other 200 are called “plurinominal,” or “party list”; they are selected by the parties in numbers proportional to the popular votes received in the election. That’s where political favors come in! 

A congressional session Photo: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

The senate has 128 members. Each of the 32 states gets three Deputies; the first two are the highest vote-getters; the third must be from a different party if the first two are from the same party. The final 32 are “plurinominal,” again, appointed by the parties. 


By law, no party is allowed to have a majority in both houses of Congress. But in order to pass a Constitutional Amendment, as is desired by Morena, they need two-thirds of the votes in both houses. Their strategy for getting those votes? Win the first two seats, and then ensure that the other parties in their coalition win those third seats.


AMLO has been pushing for electoral reform, but twice so far has failed to pass legislation in Congress. He has a “Plan C” for this. What’s the Plan?

Photo: Banderas News, San Miguel Times Feb. 5 2017

First, give less money to the parties for campaigns. Right now, campaigns receive 660 million pesos. This money could be used to improve social programs for the poor. He calls this type of reform “republican austerity.”


Second, do away with the non-elected “plurinominal” seats, which would reduce the number of Deputies and Senators. Elections would be more democratic, and again, it would cut the cost of government.

Third, eliminate the high-paid INE (the Electoral Commission) officials in each state. The function of the INE is simply to manage elections — which only happen every three years. They have nothing to do the rest of the time! This is the reform AMLO suggested last year that triggered protests engineered by the friends of the corrupt INE.


What else is needed to promote greater democracy in the president’s term?


We’ve not had a new Constitution since 1917, and so much has changed over the last century. We need a Constitutional Convention to improve the basic rights and laws governing Mexico. If we can get the two-thirds majorities we need, now is the time to make the priorities of the 4T permanent.