ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mexico : Long March to Multiparty Democracy

The presidential election of December 2000 represented a turning point bringing to an end seven decades of rule by the PRI and two decades of intermittent economic crises. While president Vicente Fox has continued the reforms of the political and economic system begun by his predecessors, he has been hampered by the downturn in the economy and the fact that old habits of a profligate system based on pelf and privilege are hard to change.

Just over a year ago, on December 1, 2000 to be precise, when Vicente Fox took charge of the Mexican presidency people expected a lot of changes in the governance of the country. After all, it was not merely a change of guard in the Mexican presidential palace. Fox had personified the beginning of a new era, a refreshing change after seven decades of uninterrupted rule of the PRI (the Spanish acronym of the Revolutionary Institutional Party) and nearly two decades of intermittent economic crises. Most importantly, unlike the traditional elites of the PRI who had ruled almost like dictators, he happens to be a former chief executive of the Coca Cola empire in Mexico. With market forces overshadowing every sphere in the era of globalisation, the presence of a former marketing executive at the helm of affairs of the country was more than reassuring. But the balance sheet of one year of his rule has revealed that effecting a radical change is not as easy as reaching the most powerful position in the country.

Indeed, only the holder of the top position is replaced. The rest of the pyramidical structure of power, with little changes here and there, is still intact. It needs mentioning that PRI was created as a highly centralised party to restore order and stability amidst intermittent war and chaos that had erupted following the 1910 revolution, bringing an end to the 30-year long dictatorship of Proferio Dias. Since then PRI had won practically all the presidential, gubernatorial and senatorial elections (at least, till the late 1970s) and had always claimed a comfortable majority in the chamber of deputies (equivalent to our Lok Sabha) as well as in the provincial assemblies. Even until 1970s, mayors of its all cities used to be the PRI nominees. Although the incumbent was not permitted a second term under the constitution, Mexican presidents had enjoyed the prerogative of choosing their successors. Until recently, the president was powerful enough to dismiss his cabinet colleagues, senators and governors with ease; the senate had always toed his line, even modification of a presidential proposal was rare. The same was true of the judiciary. The logic of the PRI-led system was electoral fraud and corruption through which the PRI had thrived in power for seven long decades.

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