México: challenges of incomplete democratization.

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Armando Chaguaceda Noriega

The social and political actors in Mexico live under the context and process of an incomplete democratization. At the federal level the political system that emerged from the 2000 election can be catalogued, formally and in broad strokes, as a polyarchy; even if we take into account important differences in dimensions like the electoral sphere and the internal life of the parties. Its principal actors frequently operate in an oligarchic manner. Its parties follow a parallel process of restricting citizen’s participation and capturing their demands in order to define their own political agenda as the national one, while at the same time being indifferent to the political programs of other actors.

We are seeing, at the federal level, not a classic authoritarianism—there is no ideology of the state here, no political police or total suspension of criticism and dissent—but rather a limited pluralism and a low-quality democracy. Nevertheless, if we shift our gaze to the sub-national setting, we see political regimes that oscillate between delegative democracy—with all-powerful governors imposing the model of political life—and pure and hard expressions of authoritarianism, with its quota of repression and the use of violence, little different from the old order. Among many regional and local governing bodies, political alternation and civic modes of exercising power stand out for their absence.

Sadly, the crisis is deep and prolonged, overtaking the responsibility of the traditional political actors; all have been implicated, whether for their actions or their omissions. There exists a challenge to repair a torn social fabric and to reconstruct democratic institutions and confidence. Mexican society continues to put little trust in its representatives and effectively lacks the institutional mechanisms and instruments to channel its discontent and demand its rights. Civil society has to articulate its proposals and mobilizations around a common program that compels the political class to recognize citizen demands. This is the sine qua non for the establishment of the foundations of a genuine—as yet nonexistent—state of laws.

Among these lines of action, already identified by Mexican academics and activists, must be included the end of politicians’ immunity from prosecution; the effective autonomy and professionalization of the judicial power; a deep reform of the country’s police forces—operating under a unified command command and instances of monitoring by social organizations and academic specialists; and the end of the parties’ political colonization of the autonomous electoral institutes. These topics will form the bulk of an agenda for further democratization.

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