Mexico Watch reports on political and economic developments in that country for business investors and others with an interest in Mexico. The most recent issue includes an interview [PDF; begins on page 3] with your Orchardist about the election. With the permission of the publisher, F&V is able to present some excerpts:
Mexico Watch: Given the experience of other presidential democracies in Latin America, and the specifics of the Mexican system, how viable is CalderÃ³nâ€™s pledge to form a â€œcoalitionâ€ government? What forms could this take and what institutional barriers might impede it?
Matthew Shugart: My answers assume a CalderÃ³n presidency, but of course that is not a sure thing. We have to wait for the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF).
In any event, we have to ask, coalition with whom? The experience of other presidential systems suggests that a coalition of the presidentâ€™s party with that of the runner-up (in this case the PRD) is highly unlikely. The very definition of a presidential system is that the president is solely responsible for organizing and directing the executive branch. Thus the second-place party has little to gain and much to lose from being a junior partner in a coalition for which the presidentâ€™s party will get most of the credit â€“ or blame. And it is blame that it will count on, for the PAN taking blame for whatever goes wrong over the next six years increases the Partido de la RevoluciÃ³n DemocrÃ¡ticaâ€™s (PRD) chances of picking up the top prize in 2012.
A coalition with the PRI is more likely. Probably not a formal coalition, but a working arrangement. The PRI is badly weakened and should be willing to cooperate without demanding too high a price.
MW: What is the likelihood of electoral reform to break the three-party stalemate, and what might a reformed system look like?
MS: I do not like the use of the word, â€œstalemate,â€ or the notion that three-party politics needs to be â€œbroken.â€ There is no majority party in Mexico, and the idea that we should engineer one with crafty electoral-system design is simply the wrong way to approach the situation. While we certainly could create an electoral system that would give one party a majority of deputies despite its not having a majority of votes, I donâ€™t see such a system being legitimate. That is, these parties â€“ yes, even the PRI â€“ represent real constituencies of real Mexicans. Until such time as one of them can convince a majority of Mexicans to vote for it, the parties will have to learn to bargain with one another. Thatâ€™s democracy, and thus something to celebrate!
Of course, one could make a very convincing case that the electoral system for the presidency should be changed to require a runoff. As a student of presidential elections, I do not see anything inherently wrong with presidents being elected with less than 50 percent of the votes, but when they are elected with much less than 50 percent and also a tiny margin, the case for a runoff is strong. But letâ€™s recall that constitutional amendments are unlikely to pass without the cooperation of the PRD. Would that party agree to a majority-runoff format? Could the PRD expect to win a nationwide majority? Would either the PAN or the PRD want to put the PRI in a â€œkingmakerâ€ position in a second round? Interesting questions to ponder! Maybe they could agree to a plurality of less than 50 percent remaining sufficient, but only if some stipulated margin over the runner-up has been achieved. If the margin requirement were not met, then there would be a runoff.
In short, Mexico has a divided electorate, but despite the tensions of this election, I would not say a deeply divided one. Compromise is possible â€“ likely, in fact. The existing electoral system for congress works well, as does the existing balance of powers between the executive and legislature. The troubles Fox had with Congress were more a result of three parties sort of feeling their way in the new competitive environment than of anything structural. If I were asked what one thing to change about Mexicoâ€™s institutions, it would be to allow legislators (maybe the president, too!) to be reelected. Otherwise, do no harm! Mexico has come a long way in a short time, and its democracy is arguably healthier than most in the region.