Is Democracy Consolidated in Mexico?

On September 26th, 2014, a group of 43 male students went missing in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, as they were traveling to a protest. Almost exactly a year later, the students remain missing and the only clue about their fate is the clear involvement of both the local police and the crime syndicate labeled “Guerreros Unidos”. This incident reignited the furor of both local and international media that question the state of Mexico’s democracy (Martínez Ahrens), along with experts that confirm democracy, expressed in the freedom of the press and the civilians, is in critical condition (Freedom House).

There are allegedly two causes for this state of democracy. The first is the institutionalized system of government that is about a decade shy of becoming a century old. It was developed and fortified over a 71-year period in which the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) held an autocratic control of the “democratic” elections of the nation. The second is the widespread presence of organized crime in the Federal state, especially the rural areas (like Iguala), which terrorizes the civilians, intimidates or controls the local governments, and runs the economy of many poor towns.

According to many experts (Shedler, O’Neil et al.) and observing the cases of the countries in the region who also suffer from organized crime, the answer to the situation could rely on plucking out said criminal organizations. According to them, the Constitutional model of organization of Mexico, which strongly reflects the legislative power of the United States (generally agreed among the best of world institutions), would be enough to launch a strong democracy, as long as the fear and effects of organized crime did not exist anymore. I disagree with this opinion. During the second half of the 20th century, PRI utilized its remarkable (in paper) creation to retain national power: the poorly established control of powers disabled the opposition and international entities from protesting the corrupted results of many elections. At the same time, they encouraged nationalist development in the country, which failed subsequently due to their corruption and international market crisis. Mexico would greatly benefit from removing the influence of crime organizations, but democracy would not be consolidated easier just like it isn’t now, and wasn’t in the past. It would require a whole reformation of the State to give democracy a safe development in this nation.


Freedom House:

Martinez Ahrens, Jan. 04 Oct. 2014. “La Muerte Anda Suelta En Iguala.” El País. Ediciones El País. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

O’Neil, Patrick H., Karl Fields, and Don Share. 2015. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

Shedler, Andreas. 2014. “The Criminal Subversion of Mexican Democracy.”Journal of Democracy 25(1).

Is Democracy in Mexico Consolidated?

In order to answer the inquiry pertaining the consolidation of democracy in contemporary Mexico, it is important to state the lens that I will use in the development of this analysis. I will analyze the state of democracy in Mexico by looking at the low levels of competence that governmental agencies have exerted in order to protect Mexican citizens against the widespread violence caused by criminal organizations. This way of looking at democracy looks to emphasize the idea of institutional accountability because it references to how well citizens can trace back actions or inaction by the government to protect their interests.


On the grounds of a simplistic definition of democracy, Mexico is fully a democratic state. However, as Andreas Shedler points out, beyond the “shiny surface” of regular elections, Mexico’s struggle with the high presence of drug cartels have lead to an downward trend in democracy overall. This is clear with the case of the forty-three students who were kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero. The kidnapping erupted discontentment across the citizens who had previously stayed quiet about the high levels of violence. In The New Yorker, Francisco Goldman explains the occurrence of the 2014 kidnapping by stating that “such acts happen because the groups responsible- both the narcos and the police and politicians who are allied with them and protect them- know that they can get away with almost anything.” This demonstrates that the government is not effective in being responsive to the violence and levels of corruption that exist among local governmental entities, such as the one that resulted in the kidnapping in the first place. Shedler also points to this idea of incompetence directly when he claims that the rate of prosecution is virtually zero. Therefore, in almost a domino effect, due to the inability of the government institutions and police to control the widespread organized crime, there is a rise in antidemocratic ideals in society. This can be supported by the 2014 report of the Freedom House in which Mexico was established as a “partly free” nation due to the increasing limitation on the freedom of the press due to media outlets being targets of the drug cartels’ scare mechanism. In essence, the violence and the lack of response by the government are making Mexico more undemocratic.



Is Democracy Consolidated in Mexico?

On paper, Mexico is a democracy. “Mexico offers students a fascinating case study of three challenges to a young democracy that are of particular interest to political scientists: the need for the state to establish political order, the need to implement the most effective and fair strategy for economic development, and the need to establish political transparency and the rule of law” (O’Neill 559). From Porfirio Diaz’s authoritarian regime in the 1860’s and the violent Mexican revolution in 1910, to the 1920’s when the first consistent elections were held, to 2000 when Mexico established their first democratic regime, the nation has undergone an immensely long strand of political changes and forms of government rule. Since Mexico first established a democracy, government hostility towards cartels has increased dramatically. In O’Neill’s words: the violence has traumatized Mexican society, raised serious questions about the capacity and autonomy of the Mexican state, and led some domestic and foreign observers to wonder whether Mexico could become a failed state” (O’Neill 559).

In addition to Mexican citizens, the international community shows great concern regarding cartel influence in Mexico. “In 2006, after a close and contentious election, PAN’s (National Action Party) Felipe Calderón assumed the presidency amid a lingering security crisis. During Fox’s term in office, violent competition among drug-trafficking organizations (so-called cartels) had been provoking more than a thousand homicides per year, and the number was rising” (Schedler 5). “Between January 2008 and November 2012, more than 2,500 police officers and more than 200 military personnel were murdered by criminal organizations” (Schedler 7). Calderón made his main objective in office to “defeat” drug cartels. This declaration only made conditions worse in Mexico as military resources were wasted and it became evdident to the public that the government has diverted their main focus from the people to warring with the cartels.

From a structural and procedural standpoint, Mexico is indeed a democracy. It is the presence of the cartels that violates the nation’s legitimacy of democracy. “The generals and privates in this criminal war do not design electoral institutions, rig the vote, bribe electoral authorities, or shave voting rolls. They have neither the means nor the intention to shape formal democratic institutions of electoral governance. But the practical effects of the criminal violence that they wield can be just as damaging to the democratic integrity of elections as the political violence that openly antidemocratic ideologues might employ” (Schedler 10). Between 2006 and 2011 Mexico attributed 35,000 murders to drug cartels” (Schedler 11). Free speech is an issue as countless journalists are killed in Mexico every year, which poses the question: why are they dying? Who is killing them? During today’s elections, there is frequent suspicion and cases that Cartels have been influencing political polls. These criminal organizations use scare tactics including threats, and murder to push voters towards the runner of their choice.

Despite Mexico’s historically poor handling of the cartel’s, president Peña Nieto has taken a new stance on the drug war. “Even before he was elected, Peña Nieto had signaled to Mexico’s voters that surrender wasn’t an option, that legalizing drugs wasn’t on the table, and that the fight against the cartels would continue — with different methods and objectives. The new plan was to continue to confiscate the traffickers’ money and drugs while not driving up the body count. Peña Nieto was supposed to focus less on capturing drug lords and more on curtailing violence and protecting the Mexican people” (Navarrette Jr. CNN). President Peña Nieto’s new approach has led to a swift capture of Miguel Morales, a feared Cartel heavyweight in addition to restoring some sense of hope among the people of Mexico. It is too early to tell whether or not democracy is consolidated in Mexico but the young democratic nation has taken big steps towards becoming so.

Cases in Comparative Politics (O’Neil)

Is democracy consolidated in Mexico?

Consolidation implies the stability of a government in all of its facets, political, economic, and judicial to name a few, as one can see Mexico has cut loose the past with a multiparty system that is kept in place through a system of checks and balances to ensure the right amount of resistance is given when lawmaking is in progress.The economy is fairing well compared to the world average but it remains to under achieve most expectations.The judicial system in Mexico is faltering, crime rates are on the rise confidence is declining in the system and the citizens seem dissatisfied with the recent results. So based off of the definition of consolidation I cannot agree that Mexico is in fact a consolidated democracy for the simple fact that Democracy “is not the only game in town”, in fact the PRI or the Institutional Revolutionary Party has been viewed as a party filled with socialists, nationalists, and militants who use corrupt methods to seize power.
Mexico may advertise free and fair elections however the PRI does not adhere to these rules, rather they gain power by electoral fraud, intimidation, and ideological changes to adhere to popular opinion rather than core values and beliefs with the good of the public in mind. A consolidated democracy means a stable democracy that can withstand elections without the need to manipulate or coerce the population. While other parties exist in Mexico they were extremely regulated by the government so they could not gain popularity and overthrow the current regime (O’Neil 197). Although Mexico is considered a “developed democracy” by definition because of their political diversity, competitive elections and liberty the extent to which these liberties are able to be exercised are extremely limited to the public (O’Neil 247). In combination with limited political and economic freedom, Mexico’s judicial system is yet another roadblock keeping the country from being a consolidated democracy in fact crime rates are on the rise, conviction rates are down and corruption amongst the judges is rampant.
In conclusion Mexico is not a consolidated democracy because it is not the “only game in town”. The PRI party may seem like a democratic party to the untrained eye, however once one peels back they layers of deception and fraud it becomes apparent it is almost a totalitarianism regime in stead of a democratic party.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

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Does a transition away from authoritarian regime always end in a democratic system?

Though traditional thought may lead us to think that transitioning away from an authoritarian regime will push a country towards democratic process, it appears that this is untrue. In many, if not most Islamic countries that moved against their previous political machines, things are no better, if not worse than previously. Is addition, these countries, such as Syria and Libya, things have moved significantly south in terms of overall stability. In a country like russia, the movement from authoritarian regime has essentially led to another authoritatian regime under Vladimir Putin.

I would argue that this transition is often unsuccessful because of the power struggle that occurs in the immediate wake of the toppling of the authoritarian regime. There are always multiple powerful players and parties, who each believe that their ideas are best for their country, and often refuse to acknowledge the views of others. Another notion that I believe greatly hinders the growth of democracy in a recently toppled authoritarian state is that the state likely has no background in democracy, and has never seen its benefits. Like we have said during class, one of the biggest foundations of having a democratic system is having a history of democracy. With this in mind, I think that the shift away from an authoritarian government will almost always NOT result in a democratic system. All in all, things are too hectic after a radical regime change, and what I find to be the most likely scenario is that the state will stick with something relatively similar to what they previously had, because it is all they know.



Domestic instability overrides citizen’s wishes for democracy in recent years

Recently, regime change and the stability of the new regime has grown to be one of the most interesting and heavily debated topics in the news. The most significant part of the debate is whether the new regimes will be democratic, and if they will be able to firmly grasp hold of the country’s power in a positive way. I personally agree with Levitsky’s and Way’s definition of a four pronged test for democracy, “free, fair, and competitive elections; full adult suffrage; broad protection of civil liberties…; the absence of non-elected “tutelary” authorities” (6). Based off this definition of democracy, I do not believe that a regime change always ends in democracy because there is a large amount of qualifiers involved in declaring something a full democratic state.

While the recent regime changes involve more democratic elements in their government because of new revolutions involving social media and other innovative methods, they do not fully envelope all the necessary attributes to be known as a democracy in the world.. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the countries with a “strong tie to the west” were able to find stability in democracy. The United States, and other countries with stable and old democratic systems, agreed to withhold economic aid to countries who did not have democratic elections. These two points are tied together because the aid from the of the cause and effect solution they contain.

While these reasons are in theory good, the incentive of money only causes leaders and revolutions to go so far. Because the United States definition of democracy only considers free and fair elections, part one of Way’s test, countries only go as far as to meet standards of the countries who give out money. While the incentives are good they also have a negative side effect; countries end up having unleveled playing fields, repression of civil liberties, and massive governmental fraud or corruption. The article in freedom house discusses the actual decline in a number of freedom categories when the new regime takes over. Egypt and Tunisia, the first in the Arab Spring to oust their president highlighted great difficulty in keeping a democracy that encompasses all of Way’s definition. Freedom house asserts, “rebuilding basic institutions like the justice system, law enforcement agencies, and regulatory frameworks for the media and civil society, all of which have been warped and corrupted by decades of authoritarian rule, will require many years of effort.” These acts all follow the booting of president but are actually much harder to sustain.

In summary, while it may be easier now because of social media to remove a regime it is very difficult to fully move it to a full democracy because of the history of oppression of civil liberties, ignorance of governmental corruption, and most importantly domestic instability.

Transitions away from Authoritarian Rule

The political landscape is a dynamic field, constantly shifting and changing due to global and local events. Governments and regimes are susceptible to political variability and can be greatly affected by a number of factors such as economic stability and Internationals pressures. A significant question comparatists ask is whether regime shifts from an authoritarian government always result in a democracy. Levitsky and Way’s article on Competitive Authoritarianism state that, in some way or another, regime transitions result in some form of increased democracy. This article fails to identify key components of recent revolutions such as religion and social media, and therefore incorrectly asses shifts in power.

Levitsky and Way assert that many nations begin to democratize either when conditions become so poor that leaders must reform or face revolution, or improved economic conditions result in a demand for greater democratization due to the population’s increased political activity. Once the authoritarian regime is removed, the nation begins to democratize. Both of these theories fail to fully explain the Arab Spring.

In most Middle Eastern countries that experienced a regime change during the Arab Spring, it was not due to economics. Regime’s constituents yearned for freedom and revolutionary ideas were disseminated far easier through the utilization of social media. Protestors tired of their government’s repressive practices rallied and toppled their respective regimes. The situation deteriorated rapidly in the post-authoritarian power vacuum.

Revolting political entities began clashing over whether new regimes should be secular or religious. The Muslim brotherhood gained power through democratic elections in Egypt, then began enacting suppressive practices against secular political opposition to maintain power, similar to that of the previous authoritarian regime.  The military then executed a coup that has left the nation in a tense stasis.  The emergence of ISIS in Syria has caused significant religious tension within the region as well, and threatened the stability of neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iraq.

Both the implementation of social media and the introduction of religious agendas to revolutionary ideals are factors that Levitsky and Way had not accounted for in their original analysis of transitions.  For many people in the Middle East, the Arab Spring has resulted in more chaos and economic turmoil than bargained for.


Hubbard, Ben and Rick Gladstone. “Arab Spring Countries Find Peace is harder than Revolution.” The New York Times, August 14, 2013.

Levitsky, Steven and Lucan Way. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1.

Simpson, John. “Who are the Winners and Losers from the Arab Spring?” BBC, November 12, 2014.


Presidential vs Parliamentary

Most Americans see our version of democracy and think this is the “right” way to run a country. We tend to impose our views on other countries that are attempting to form their own democracies, although our presidential system might not be the best option out there. Both presidential democracy and parliamentary democracy have their benefits and downfalls, as any form of government does. But, the parliamentary system seems to be a more stable form of democracy.

One of the most highly emphasized issues in the United States is the separation of powers. In the American presidential democratic system, our powers are extremely separated. Almost too separated. Although the article is from 2013, the issues it discusses are still very prominent today. Would the U.S. Be Better off with a Parliament? highlights the enormous amount of gridlock that we have within our government. The article discusses whether other democratic systems, mainly the parliamentary democracy system, run in to the same type of gridlock that America does, and the answer is no. “We tried to think about why it is that other countries have had less difficulty in negotiating agreements,” says Boston University’s Cathie Jo Martin, who was co-chairwoman of the task force. “You don’t see these kinds of stalemates happening elsewhere” (Shapiro). They conclude that this tie-up is related to the “very strong separation of powers” (Shapiro).

Without this drastic separation of power, laws can be approved and put in to action at a much faster pace. This would allow for important laws, that can benefit the country, and regulations to be enacted quicker, and enforced faster. In a parliamentary system in the U.K. for example, “the majority party in the United Kingdom can enact policies with few checks from other branches of government” (O’Neil, Fields, Share 47). Some may see this as too much centralized power, and could lead to a dictatorship type of government. But in the United Kingdom that has not happened. They rely on “historical traditions” and “restrictions imposed by the European Union to keep the British government from abusing its power” (O’Neil, Fields, Share 47). So, the U.K. parliament isn’t doing whatever they please, whenever they please. They do have restrictions and limitations they must follow.

The author asked at the very end of the interview “how all of this looks from Europe, Risse in Berlin replies, “Pretty dysfunctional, I have to say” (Shapiro).

Link to Article:


O’Neil, Patrick H., Karl Fields, and Don Share. “United Kingdom.” Cases in Comparative Politics. Fifth ed. W.W. Norton, 2015. 47. Print

Shapiro, Ari. “Would The U.S. Be Better Off With A Parliament?” NPR. NPR, 12 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Sept. 2015. <;.

Parliamentary Vs. Presidential Democracies: In the Context of American Political Developments

American politics is stuck in gridlock and has become ideologically polarized. One of the main factors contributing to the dysfunction in the American political system is the presence of a divided government. America, having a Democratic President and a Republican controlled legislature, has come to a political standstill. The gridlock has been partially due to America’s presidential democracy. Other than the benefit of having the electorate vote for the head of government directly, the presidential system results in inaction and poor governance.

The parliamentary system, which exists in the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Japan, etc., overcomes the dysfunction that results from having a divided government by electing the leader of the majority in the legislature to act as the head of government. The formation of a government through the legislature ensures there is a mandate for the majority’s policies. In a presidential system, where the executive branch and the legislature are at odds, there is no clear mandate on which set of policies the electorate supports. If the president is from a different political party than the legislature, more often than not, this will result in political gridlock and polarization, like it has in the United States. There is much evidence in American politics which supports the claim that a divided government is unproductive and a unified government is much more effective in governance. The two most productive and effective congresses in American history have been the 111th Congress, which passed major healthcare reform and saved the American economy from a depression, and the 89th Congress, which enacted the Great Society. Both of these congresses had a Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature and a Democratic President. The two most recent congresses, 113th and 112th, have enacted only 49 laws (from Jan 6th, 2015 to September 20th, 2015) and 294 laws respectively, as compared to the historical average of 552 per congressional session. Both the 113th and the 112th have had a divided government. The lack of a unified government, results in poor governance due to a chaotic and unstable political process. This is shown by the brinksmanship that was displayed by both political parties in the United States during the 2013 budget impasse, which resulted in a sixteen-day government shutdown.

Apart from the practical evidence, there is a growing body of scholarly work that supports the assertion that parliamentary systems are better for democracy than presidential systems. In “What Makes Democracies Endure?” the authors explain that parliamentary democracies not only last longer than presidential democracies, but parliamentary democracies are also less likely to fail at any level of income. Also, the authors noted “[presidential democracies] die at much higher rates under any conditions,” while parliamentary systems only suffer during times of economic malaise. O’Neil, goes further to say “presidentialism is a more unstable system, since it limits power sharing and also lacks the mechanism through which legislators and executives can be easily removed from office.” (O’Neil 158)

Whether it’s the lack of accountability or the inefficiency caused by a divided government, the presidential democratic system is far more inferior to the parliamentary system. While not perfect, the parliamentary system, especially in the United Kingdom, has shown that it can evolve and meet the needs and wants of its people. The flexibility, efficiency, and longevity that the parliamentary system provides outweighs any benefits the presidential system has to offer.

Works Cited

Cheibub, Jose Antonio. “Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy.” (2006): n. pag. Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Web. <;.

Enten, Harry. “The House And Senate Are the Most Divided They’ve Been in Our Lifetimes.” FiveThirtyEight. ESPN Media, 03 July 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

Przeworksi, Adam, Michael Alvarez, José Antonio Cheibub, and Fernando Limongi. “Project MUSE – What Makes Democracies Endure?” Project MUSE – What Makes Democracies Endure? Journal of Democracy, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

“Statistics and Historical Comparison.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <;.

Reasons the Presidential System of Democracy Is Better Than the Parliamentary One

The presidential system is better for democracy than the parliamentary one because of its separation of powers, the role of the judiciary, and government accountability to its people.

A presidential system is advantageous because of the relationship between the executive and the legislature. This system has what a parliamentary one largely lacks: a strong separation of powers between branches of government. In a parliamentary system, the legislature elects the prime minister from parliament, which is able to remove the prime minister whenever the majority chooses, especially since he does not have a fixed term in office (O’Neil 152-53). This ability is inexistent in a presidential democracy. In most cases, the prime minister continues to hold a seat in the legislature; therefore, the executive and legislative branches do not sufficiently check each other. This concentration of unchecked power can result in corruption and abuse of power. The prime minister’s cabinet members come from the legislature too, contrasting with presidential cabinets which are comprised of professionals in their respective fields, rather than professional politicians (152, 54).

The role of the judicial branch in a presidential system is vastly different from its role in a parliamentary one. In a presidential system, the courts have the power of judicial review, that is they can determine a law unconstitutional. This provides a check on both the executive and the legislature. In parliamentary systems, opportunities for the courts to get involved in constitutional conflicts are more limited, given how closely the executive and legislature work together. Moreover, “heads of state and upper houses themselves have certain powers of constitutional review, further limiting the opportunity for independent judicial power” (O’Neil 153-54).

The presidential system is also superior because in it the government is more accountable to its people. In parliamentary systems “the public does not directly elect its country’s leader. That task is left to the parties” (O’Neil 153). This gives political parties more control over legislators, and, thus, over the government. While everyone elects a president, a prime minister is only elected by the majority of people in parliament. This distinction has a number of consequences. For instance, to get elected, a prime minister must be a party insider. Conversely, presidents can be government outsiders (O’Neil 153-55). In fact, citizens in presidential democracies may even prefer an outsider. This appears to be the case in the 2016 U.S. presidential race in which none of the top three Republican candidates: Trump, Fiorina, and Carson have ever held public office. Bernie Sanders, one of the top Democratic candidates, is not a party insider either. This is impossible under a parliamentary system, yet, as is evident in polling, it is what the majority of Americans want (Torry). The people’s ability to decide what type of leader they want, a choice they somewhat lack in parliamentary systems, is at the heart of democracy.

For these reasons, a presidential system is better than a parliamentary one.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Torry, Jack, and Jessica Wehrman. “Never Holding Political Office Seen as plus for Presidential Candidates.” The Columbus Dispatch. N.p., 21 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

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