If we are to believe recent indications, everything would appear to point toward decisive advancement in resolving Point No. 1 on the political reform agenda: electoral reform, and especially the referendum measure recently proposed by executive branch representative Emilio Chuayffet Chemor (Interior Secretary). Political parties and the Interior Secretariat began talks on the referendum, as well as other measures such as the plebiscite, both of which add up to the possibility that citizens submit their own bills and reforms to the national Congress. (El Financiero, March 28.) The proposed referendum would not only allow citizens to decide on Constitutional amendments, but also on executive decisions. (La Jornada, March 29.) However, such high-fallutin' talk will remain chin music until government and business elites truly commit themselves to democratic transition, above all, submitting the present economic model to popular approval.
But there are signs that the parties involved are getting down to brass tacks: the negotiating table has identified at least 15 constitutional articles that will need to be modified in the electoral reform process, including articles 35, 72, 89, 94 and 116. (La Jornada, March 29.) Without delving too deeply into arcane issues of constitutional law, reform of article 94 would put the Federal Electoral Tribune in the hands of the judicial branch (instead of the executive, where it currently resides), while Article 72, which specifies that legislative bills may be introduced by the Chief Executive, federal and state legislatures, would now add citizen organizations to that relatively restricted list. In addition, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Workers Party (PT) --the PAN is out of the picture for the moment--_suggested changes to articles 41 and 116, which have to do with protection of political rights. Significant consensus has been achieved with respect to equal media access, suffrage rights for Mexicans abroad (beginning with the 2000 elections) and shifting the Federal Electoral Tribune to the judicial branch. (La Jornada, April 3.) However, there is still dissent on autonomy of electoral agencies, composition of the Legislature with its complex mixture of direct and proportional representation, and appointment of the Federal Electoral Institute's (IFE) chief. But the signs are encouraging: the Interior Secretariat and the political parties (PRI, PRD, PT) all claim that there is 70% agreement with respect to electoral reform.
PRD president Porfirio Muñoz Ledo criticized an electoral reform package set forth by the PAN in the House of Deputies as "poor and weak," since it leaves "electoral organisms [the IFE] intact, doesn't change the system of congressional representation and doesn't address the struggle for resources." (La Jornada, April 3.) According to Muñoz Ledo, the goal is to achieve a more far-reaching electoral reform than that enacted during Salinas' term, where the PAN played a decisive role in negotiating various state governorships (the famous problem of "concertacessions"). There has been undeniable progress, in discursive terms, on electoral reform and political rights (see ANALYSIS #65, "Heartbeat of Mexico" for an extended discussion on the pros and cons of the referendum). Clean electoral processes, free from all doubt, is at the heart of all social demands for transparent and equitable elections. Nonetheless, there are still drawbacks which are prejudicing the reform process:
On the one hand, the PAN is right to speak of a "strange duality" on the government's part. On the other hand, it is doubtful that the party's refusal to negotiate will help to unblock political reform. The PAN, therefore, should seek alliances and consensus, not suicide which will only benefit the ruling party and the government. If the PAN were to continue along these lines, it would only validate the opinion that the party isn't seeking true Political Reform of the State, but hoping to arrive in power in 1997 and take advantage of the same mechanisms which have allowed the PRI to perpetuate itself for so long (representative systems would be one such mechanism).
Madrazo and his champions took the verdict with a grain of salt. According to the governor, there is no evidence of his guilt and he has been more than willing to submit to a deposition. Critics have questioned this innocence as feigned, wondering aloud why he filed the injunction against the Attorney General if he has nothing to hide. For PRI president Santiago Oñate, even if it were proved that Madrazo transferred public moneys to his campaign, this act would not constitute a crime under current penal law (a clearly spurious argument).
The President of the Tabasco state congress, Pedro Jimenez Leon, was even more emphatic, defending his governor at all costs against the federal government and even the central party structure. "I'm telling the Attorney General ... that Tabasco isn't Guerrero. Nothing's going on here." In response to PAN and PRD demands for Madrazo's temporary resignation, until the case is resolved, Jimenez Leon categorically rejected any such notion, decrying that the governor would not accede to such a request "no matter where it came from, not even if President Zedillo made such a determination." (La Jornada, March 29.) The Tabasco PRI members, despite altercations with the national party, are ultimately counting on Zedillo's backing.
Tabasco, the same as Guerrero, is clearly a setback for the reform process. It will be impossible to mandate Rule of Law while such flagrant (and rampant) violations of the law continue to exist, while local political bosses are effectively able to thumb their noses at federal restraint. (It goes without saying that the "caciques" are able to circumvent local law, since regional authorities are tucked away in their shirt pockets.) Removal of Madrazo from office_--and his replacement according to legal, not negotiated, processes-- would appear to be another condition for real change.