Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Mexico's Party System Problems

Political scientist Eric Magar has a blog post lamenting the potential end to the Mexican party system, showing how drastically the share of vote for PRD, PRI, and PAN has fallen.

Un sistema de partidos robusto dota al proceso democrático de una buena dosis de estabilidad y predictibilidad. Esto puede apreciarse en el continente americano, cuyos partidos varían mucho. Los países andinos, y entre ellos Ecuador particularmente, han sido célebres por la debilidad endémica de sus sistemas de partidos. En su monografía sobre los sistemas de partidos de Latinoamérica, Mainwaring y Scully se refieren al ecuatoriano como "rudimentario", caracterizado por el multipartidismo, la ausencia de vínculos sólidos con el electorado y su permanente mutabilidad.1 En contraste, los autores ubicaron al mexicano entre los sistemas de partidos más "institucionalizados". Atribuyen nuestro relativo éxito para cambiar el modelo económico a esta diferencia.
Three things come to mind.

First, strong parties with organic ties to their constituents do matter. I don't want to downplay that too much.

Second, it is tricky to use the Andean countries as an example of things falling apart. Bolivia and Ecuador actually stabilized dramatically under Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. Correa even stepped down voluntarily rather than give in to temptation (which of course Morales could not resist). Starting in 2006, when both Correa and Felipe Calderón were elected, Ecuador has become more stable than Mexico. In a 2016-2017 LAPOP survey, 20% in Ecuador trusted political parties compared to 13.8% in Mexico (Bolivia is also higher at 16.3%).

Third, the Mainwaring and Scully analysis is 1995 so cannot account for the drug war and associated organized crime, which connects to immigration as well. Mexicans are unhappy with corruption and violence, not the economic system per se. Incidentally, Bolivia suffered under the U.S. drug war too, and has been doing much better after turning to the Brazilians rather than the United States.

I don't have a firm conclusion here, except maybe that Mexico's current shake up isn't necessarily the end of the world. It's tough to compare to the Andean region because the history of parties there is so different, but they've been doing pretty well. Mexico, with its strong parties, has not.


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