Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Enrique Peña Nieto
Head of Government: President Enrique Peña Nieto
The 1917 constitution provides for a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Historically, the executive has been the dominant branch, with power vested in the president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. The Congress has played an increasingly important role since 1997, when opposition parties first made major gains. The president also legislates by executive decree in certain economic and financial fields, using powers delegated by the Congress. The president is elected by universal adult suffrage for a 6-year term and may not hold office a second time. There is no vice president.
The Congress is comprised of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Consecutive re-election is prohibited. Senators are elected to 6-year terms, and deputies serve 3-year terms. The Senate's 128 seats are filled by a mixture of direct-election and proportional representation. In the lower chamber, 300 deputies are directly elected to represent single-member districts, and 200 are selected by a modified form of proportional representation from five electoral regions. The 200 proportional representation seats were created to help smaller parties gain access to the Chamber.
The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and some major felonies. Under the constitution, trial and sentencing must be completed within 12 months of arrest for crimes that would carry at least a 2-year sentence. In practice, the judicial system often does not meet this requirement. Trial is by judge, not jury; however, Mexico is currently implementing an oral, adversarial justice system. Defendants have a right to counsel, and public defenders are available. Other rights include defense against self-incrimination, the right to confront one's accusers, and the right to a public trial. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. (See "Reforms" below for comments on judicial reform currently underway.)
President Felipe Calderon of the PAN was elected in 2006 in an extremely tight race, with a margin of less than 1% separating his vote total from that of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ("AMLO") of the left-of-center Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). AMLO contested the results of the election, alleging that it was marred by widespread fraud. Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal, while acknowledging the presence of randomly-distributed irregularities, rejected AMLO's accusation of widespread fraud and upheld Calderon's victory on September 5, 2006.
President Calderon’s National Action Party currently is the largest party in the Senate but lost its majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the July 2009 elections. The PRI gained a de facto majority (through its alliance with another party) in those elections in which every Chamber of Deputies seat was up for vote. Although the PRI does not control the presidency or a majority in the Senate, it remains a significant force in Mexican politics, holding or having recently been elected to 19 of 31 governorships and often playing a pivotal role in forming coalitions in Congress. The next national elections--for the president, all 128 seats in the Senate, and all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies--will take place in July 2012.
One of President Fox's (2000-2006) most important reforms was the passage and implementation of freedom of information (FOIA) laws. President Fox also highlighted the need for modernization of Mexico's criminal justice system, including the introduction of oral trials. Judicial reforms stalled at the federal level during the Fox years, but President Calderon succeeded in passing legislation to reform the federal judicial system in 2008. The reform legislation set a timetable of 8 years for full implementation.
In addition to judicial reform, President Calderon has also succeeded in negotiating with Congress to pass security, fiscal, electoral, energy, and pension reforms. The administration is grappling with many economic challenges, including the need to upgrade infrastructure, modernize labor laws, and make the energy and manufacturing sectors more competitive. Calderon has stated that his top economic priorities remain reducing poverty and creating jobs. In the face of the serious threat posed by organized crime, the Mexican Congress passed legislation to expand the investigative and intelligence capabilities of the country’s Federal Police. The Mexican Government has also bolstered vetting and training requirements for local, state, and federal police forces. In July 2011, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that all human-rights related crimes, including those committed by the military, should be tried in civilian courts.
Traditionally, Mexico has sought to maintain its interests abroad and project its influence largely through moral persuasion and has championed the principles of nonintervention and self-determination. In its efforts to revitalize its economy and open up to international competition, Mexico has sought closer relations with the U.S., Western Europe, and the Pacific Basin. President Calderon has actively promoted international human rights and democracy and sought to increase Mexico's participation in international affairs.
Mexico is a strong supporter of the United Nations and Organization of American States systems. While selective in its membership in other international organizations, it pursues its interests through a number of ad hoc international bodies. Mexico was the Secretary Pro Tempore of the Rio Group for the term 2008-2010; separately, it held a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2009-2010. In late 2010, Mexico hosted the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Whereas Mexico declined to become a member of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, it nevertheless seeks to diversify its diplomatic and economic relations, as demonstrated by its accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1986; its joining the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in 1993; its becoming, in April 1994, the first Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and its entering the World Trade Organization as a founding member in 1996. Mexico attended the first Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in 1994; managed coordination of the agenda item on education for the 1998 Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile; hosted a Special Summit of the Americas in early 2004; and participated actively in the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. In 2002 it hosted the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Cabo San Lucas. Mexico hosted the September 2003 WTO Ministerial in Cancun and a Hemispheric Security Conference in October of the same year. It was elected to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors in 2003. Mexico has emerged as a key middle income player in the G-20 and hosted an H1N1 Conference in Cancun in 2009.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (November 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( November 2011)