1. How is Mexico politically organized?
Mexico is a representative, democratic republic conformed by thirty-two autonomous states (thirty-one states and one Federal District) regarding its internal government regime. The government system is presidential. Both the federation and each of the thirty-two states adjust to the traditional model for the division of powers and separation of functions divided into Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branch.
The Executive Branch of the Union is conformed by one representative, the President, who is elected by direct election and universal suffrage of all citizens to serve for a period of six years. Under no circumstance the President may be re-elected. In the thirty-one states the Executive is vested upon the Governors, and in the Federal District, on the Chief of Government. They also serve a six-year term and may not be re-elected.
The Legislative Branch of the Federation is vested upon the Union Congress, formed by a Lower Chamber of 500 members and an Upper Chamber conformed by 128 members. The Legislative Branch of the thirty-two states is single chambered. It is called Local Congress in the thirty-one states and Legislative Assembly in the Federal District. All legislatives serve for a period of three years except those of the Upper Chamber who serve for six years.
The Judicial Branch of the federation is vested upon the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, made up by eleven ministers elected by the vote of two thirds of the Upper Chamber members, based on a list put forward by the President of the Republic. The Judicial Branch of each one of the thirty-two states is vested upon their corresponding Supreme Court of Justice.
2. Which is the distribution of competencies in electoral matter?
The distribution of competencies regarding electoral matter has two main components.
First, both the federation and the thirty-two states have their own electoral regulations, institutions, and procedures in electoral matter; there is a clear difference and delimitation of electoral competencies between the two levels of government. Therefore, even when some common fundamentals occur, federal elections (for president, Deputies and Senators) and local elections (for governors, state legislators and municipal authorities) are separately organized and controlled.
Second, administrative (preparation, organization, and conduction of elections) and jurisdictional authorities (dispute resolutions and application of electoral justice) are clearly differentiated and conferred to different bodies at each government level. At a federal level the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is provided with the administrative responsibility. The IFE is a public, autonomous and independent body. The Electoral Tribunal, a specialized body of the Judicial Branch of the Federation, is provided with the jurisdictional responsibility. The Electoral Tribunal, as opposed to the IFE, is entitled to adopt resolutions in certain cases and to give final rulings on local electoral challenges.
In short, each federal state has its own administrative and legal organisms in electoral matter, as well as its own electoral calendar. Nevertheless, in some cases the federal and local elections concur (the first Sunday in July of the corresponding year).
3. Which are the principles common to all elections in Mexico?
The Constitution establishes a series of fundamental rules that must conduct all the federal as well as the local electoral processes, among which the following may be emphasized:
- Elections must be carried out through universal, free, secret and direct voting.
- The exercise of the electoral function must be ruled by the principles of legality, impartiality, objectivity, certainty and independency.
- The authorities in charge of the administrative and legal functions in electoral matters must be autonomous in their performance and independent in their decisions.
- According to the available budget, the political parties must get equitable public funding for their sustenance and electoral activities.
- Political parties must have access to social communication media in equal conditions.
- Campaign expenses of the political parties must have ceilings, and procedures must be set for the control and surveillance of the origin and spending of all their resources.
- The offenses, wrongdoings and penalties on electoral matter must be enclosed in a law.
4. Which are the main characteristics of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) and how is it conformed?
The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is a public, autonomous, and independent agency in terms of its decisions and operation. It is bestowed by the state with the authority for organizing federal elections, which are those for the election of the President as well as the Upper and Lower Chambers that integrate the Federal Congress. Its headquarters are in the Federal District but it exerts its authority throughout all the country by means of decentralized bodies located in the capital cities of the thirty-two states and in the 300 electoral districts in which the national territory is divided for electoral purposes.
The IFE is authorized to carry out the actions related to the preparation, organization, conduction, and surveillance of federal elections, including the revision and adjustment of electoral geography, the accomplishment and updating of the voter’s roll, the attention to the rights and prerogatives of parties and political groups, as well as the formulation and implementation of permanent civic education programs.
Within both the central and decentralized levels of its structure, the IFE relies on three different kinds of bodies: 1) directive, made up by Councils which serve as deliberation and decision bodies, in charge of surveying the compliance with constitutional and legal regulations in this matter; 2) technical-executive bodies, made up by Executive Boards in charge of carrying out all technical and administrative tasks required for the preparation, organization, and conduction of elections, and 3) surveillance bodies, made up of Commissions with exclusive attributions regarding voter registration.
5. How is the General Council of the IFE integrated and how does it work?
The General Council is the main executive body of the IFE. Therefore, it is responsible for the surveillance of the constitutional and jurisdictional dispositions in electoral matter, as well as for the fulfillment of the principles of certainty, legality, independence and objectivity to rule all activities within the agency. It consists of nine members with the right to take part in discussions and vote and a variable number of members with the right to take part in discussions but not to vote.
The nine members with the right to take part in discussions and vote are the President Councilor and eight electoral councilors. All of them are elected by the vote of two thirds of the members present in the Lower Chamber from the proposals of the parliamentary groups and after a public poll. The President Councilor is elected to serve for a period of six years (the current period began on February, 2008) and may be re-elected once only. The eight electoral councilors are elected at regular intervals to serve for a period of nine years, and may not be re-elected.
The members that have the right to take part in discussions but that cannot vote are the councilors of the Legislative Branch (currently seven, one for each parliamentary group); the representatives of the registered national political parties (currently seven also), and the Executive Secretary of the Institute, who is appointed and removed with the vote of two thirds of the General Council from a proposal from the President Councilor.
6. How is the legality of the acts and resolutions of the IFE guaranteed?
To guarantee the constitutionality and legality of all acts and resolutions of the electoral authorities, including of course those belonging to the IFE and its General Council, there is a General Law for the Settlement of Electoral Disputes. This law specifies the different resources and trials that comprise the system for dispute settlement, such as the legal parties and terms, and the basis to present and resolve them.
The Federal Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Branch (TEPJF) is entitled to resolve the settlement of disputes, except those so-called review challenges, that are entitled to be resolved by the IFE. According to this system, the agreements and decisions of the General Council of the IFE may be challenged before the TEPJF, and the Tribunal’s decisions are definite and indisputable.
7. When will the next federal elections take place?
Regular federal elections are invariably carried out on the first Sunday of July of the corresponding year. Therefore, on Sunday July 5, 2009, the next federal elections will take place, but this time only the 500 seats of the Lower Chamber will be renewed, since these are midterm elections.
Every six years simultaneous elections are carried out for the election of President, the 500 seats of the Lower Chamber and the 128 ones of the Senate. The most recent national elections took place on Sunday July 2, 2006. Therefore, the following elections to elect all federal posts will take place in 2012.
It must be emphasized that on Sunday July 5, 2006, local elections will also be carried out in 12 states: in Campeche, Colima, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sonora and Queretaro the Governor will be elected and the Local Congress and municipal authorities will be renewed; in the state of Mexico, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Tabasco only the Local Congress and municipal authorities will be renewed. In the Federal District, citizens will elect members to Local Congress, and the Heads of Municipalities called Delegation Chiefs.
8. Who has the right to vote?
Generally speaking, all Mexican men and women, whether by birth or naturalization, who are at least 18 years old on polling day and make an honest living, are entitled to vote both in federal and local elections. To exercise their right to vote, all citizens must be registered in the Electoral Roll and have their photo-voting card. The IFE issues a free photo-voting card to every citizen that applies for it.
It must be emphasized that all procedures to register as voters may only be carried out within the Mexican national territory.
9. May Mexican citizens living abroad, vote?
Yes. As the result of a reform approved in June 2005, all Mexican citizens living abroad have the right to cast their vote for presidential elections only. Therefore, for the midterm legislative elections of 2009, the IFE will not set up any voting mechanism abroad.
10. Are there any novelties regarding the organization of the following federal elections?
Yes. There will be a series of novelties instituted by a number of constitutional and legal reforms approved by Congress at the end of 2007.
In another section of this document details will be given in terms of the nature, objectives and contents of such reforms. Meanwhile, it may be emphasized that it is an integral reform containing key innovations related to the legal regime of the political parties; the conditions of equity in the electoral competition, including the regulation of the processes for the selection of internal candidates and the so-called pre-campaigns, as well as adjustments to the formula to calculate the public funding and the use of electronic media for electoral purposes; as well as the mechanisms for the surveillance on the origin and destination of the funding for parties and campaigns.
11. Which political parties will compete in the following federal elections?
In Mexico, the designation of political party is exclusively given to those political organizations that formally apply and comply with the requirements to obtain their legal registry. The recognition of their legal personality bestows a number of rights, prerogatives and obligations provided by the law, such as free and permanent access to radio and television, public funding, and a special fiscal and postal/telegraph regime.
The midterm elections of 2009 will include the eight legally recognized political parties:
- Partido Acción Nacional, PAN (National Action Party)
- Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party)
- Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD (Democratic Revolution Party)
- Partido Verde Ecologista de México, PVEM (Green Ecological Party of Mexico)
- Partido del Trabajo, PT (Labor Party)
- Convergencia (Convergence)
- Partido Nueva Alianza, PANAL (New Alliance Party)
- Partido Socialdemócrata PSD (Social Democratic Party)
It is worth emphasizing that the Partido del Trabajo and Convergencia conformed a coalition named Salvemos a México (Let us save Mexico) nominating common candidates in the 300 districts where Majority Deputies will be elected; in turn, the PRI and PVEM will compete with common candidates for Majority Deputies in 63 districts by means of a coalition called Primero México.
Even when before the federal elections of 2009 there was a period in which all interested political organizations could apply for their registration and fulfill all the requirements in order to become national political parties, none of them complied with the requirements to obtain their registry, therefore, no newly constituted political parties will contend this time.
In any case, for a national political party to keep its registry, it is essential to obtain at least 2 percent of the total votes in an ordinary federal election, either for President, Deputies or Senators.
12. How are the 500 Federal Deputies elected?
The 500 Federal Deputies are elected by means of a variation in the system of personalized proportional representation, in which a percentage of the Deputies are elected by a system of majority and the rest by a proportional representation system under terms that assure their interrelationship and completeness.
So, from the 500 seats that make up the Lower Chamber, 300 are elected by relative majority in single-member districts among which the national territory is divided for electoral purposes, and the other 200 are elected by proportional representation through the system of party lists in five regional districts. Federal Deputies are elected for a three-year period and may not be re-elected for an immediate period.
13. How is the Lower Chamber currently conformed?
The eight political parties that contested either individually or as part of a coalition in the elections for the renewal of the Lower Chamber in July 2, 2006, obtained the number of votes required (at least 2 percent of the total national votes) to obtain representation in the current federal legislation under the following terms:
14. Are independent candidacies for federal posts, accepted?
No. According to the present federal electoral legislation, it is an exclusive right of the registered national political parties to postulate candidates for federal posts.
15. Are there regulations to guarantee gender equity in the postulation of candidacies?
Yes. As a result of the recent reforms in this matter, the law prohibits political parties and coalitions to include more than 60 percent of candidacies of a same gender among the list of holders to the posts of Deputies and Senators. Formerly, the applicable proportion was of 70 percent.
In the current shaping of the Lower Chamber, 116 out of the 500 seats correspond to women (23.2 percent of the total number), as well as 23 of the 128 that integrate the Upper Chamber (18.1 %).
16. Which are the prerogatives of political parties in terms of public funding?
Firstly, it must be emphasized that the Constitution states that public funding must prevail over private funding sources that the law allows and regulates. That is, the greatest share of the total amount of resources that the political parties use in order to achieve their goals as defined by law must come from public funds. Still, the law does not specify the exact amount, only the proportion.
The law sets forth three different concepts in order to grant public funding, and specific procedures for their application by the IFE’s General Council. The first one regards its allocation to permanent ordinary activities. This amount is determined once a year and results from multiplying the number of electors registered in the Electoral Roll by 65 percent of the minimum wage for the Federal District. This amount is distributed as follows: 30 percent is equally distributed among all the parties with parliamentary representation, and the remaining 70 percent is distributed according to the amount of votes obtained in the preceding Lower Chamber election.
The second concept is related to campaign expenses and is only allocated during an election year. In case of general elections, each party obtains an additional amount equal to 50 percent of the funding allocated for ordinary activities. In case of midterm legislative elections, as those of 2009, each political party receives only an additional amount equal to 30 percent of the ordinary funding.
The third concept is assigned to subsidize specific activities such as political education and training, socioeconomic and political research, and publishing issues, for which a prevision corresponding to 3 percent of the total amount granted for the funding of ordinary activities, is allocated and distributed analogously: 30 percent equally among all parties with parliamentary representation and 70 percent according to the votes obtained in the preceding Lower Chamber members election.
The law also considers special criteria to allocate public funding to parties that obtained their registration after the last federal election and before they participate in their first electoral contest.
17. Is private funding regulated?
Yes. Since 1993, the electoral legislation regulates and defines four private sources of funding for political parties: 1) by political affiliation, which basically comprises the fees of its members and the donations by social organizations; 2) by supporters, which includes all donations and contributions, both in money and in kind, given freely and voluntarily by Mexican individuals or corporations that reside in the country, and subject to a global ceiling as well as limits per person or company; 3) by self-financing, which refers to the income obtained by promotional activities; and finally, 4) financial yield, which comprises the income generated by trust funds created with their own resources.
Likewise, the electoral legislation establishes the different sources or agencies that are not allowed to give donations or contributions to political parties, either in money, goods or through a third party. Among them are the following: all public powers; the bodies, entities, or agencies of public administration at all levels; any foreign political party, individual or corporation; all international agencies; any cult minister, association, church, or group of any religion or sect; the people who live or work abroad and Mexican commercial companies.
18. Are political parties accountable for their finances?
Yes. Along with the strengthening of the legal regime of political parties, the criteria, procedures and mechanisms for their accountability have developed, especially those concerning direct public funding. Therefore, accountability about the origin, handling and destination of financial resources available to the political parties has become more transparent and reliable. The recent reforms strengthened the surveillance and accountability systems.
Firstly, as a result of the recent reforms, a new body was created within the IFE, of autonomous nature and specialized in the surveillance of political parties finances, and will not be limited by banking, fiscal or fiduciary secrecy in the execution of its duties and attributions regarding the obtaining and complete revision of the informs filed by the political parties on the origin, amount, destination and application of the funding received by any source.
Secondly, now political parties must not only file annual and campaign reports but also an annual consolidated statement of their assets situation, quarterly reports of advance during non-electoral years, expenses reports for the organizing of internal procedures and pre-campaigns for the election of their candidates and a preliminary inform on their campaign expenses shortly before two weeks prior to election day.
In any case, political parties must have an internal body responsible for the obtaining and administering of the general resources and those of campaign, as well as the filing of all informs and reports clearly stated and detailed by law.
19. Are penalties foreseen in the event of violations to regulations on funding and finances accountability?
Yes. The General Council is entitled to apply penalties for not complying with regulations in this matter, according to the severity of the breach. To such effect, the General Council considers the resolution projects set forth by the Oversight Unit.
In fact, as a result of the recent reforms, electoral legislation details more scrupulously the section dedicated to electoral penalties, indicating subjects of responsibility, type of violations in which they may incur, the corresponding penalties and procedures to make them happen.
A special procedure is stated to negotiate and resolve reports regarding behaviors that violate constitutional regulations regarding the right of the political parties to use in a permanent way the social communication media, or the disclosure of government advertisement; violation of political or electoral advertisement regulations or when early campaign or pre-campaign activities are carried out.
20. Are the financial reports and resolutions of the electoral authority in terms of funding and surveillance, available to the public?
Yes. As a result of recent reforms in the matter, the IFE is compelled to disclose through its website all decisions emitted regarding the financial reports filed by the political parties, and if pertinent, the resolutions of the Electoral Tribunal.
However, even when formerly the law commanded the IFE to publish such information in its official gazette, in order to encourage a culture of transparency and accountability and to ratify its full disposition and will to open and submit all of its activities and decisions to public scrutiny, the IFE includes since July, 2002, a section to consult the annual reports filed by the political parties since 1998, as well as decisions and resolutions of the General Council for each inform; the resolutions of the Electoral Tribunal on challenges filed by the parties, and the contributions of the members and supporters of the parties.
21. Which are the prerogatives of the political parties in terms of access to the media?
Recent constitutional and legal reforms have brought significant modifications in this matter. Although political parties had guaranteed permanent and free access to radio and television, they were also allowed to hire additional time slots during electoral periods.
The main novelty is that nowadays the free access is the only way political parties and their candidates may transmit electoral advertisement through radio and television that, in Mexico, operate under a scheme of licenses and concessions granted by the State. With this reform and by constitutional mandate, neither the political parties, nor any other subject may hire time slots in electronic media for electoral purposes.
To operate the new scheme of access and the use of radio and television for electoral purposes, the law appoints the IFE as the sole authority for the management of the time owned by the State in those media for all electoral bodies, federal and local authorities, as well as political parties that contend in the federal and local elections.
The law itself details criteria and procedures for the allocation of that time (that during electoral periods adds up to 48 minutes a day en each radio station and television channel within the country) between the electoral authorities and the different political parties.
22. Are there any other legal provisions for the use of the media during electoral periods?
Yes. Also as a result of the recent reforms, the Constitution establishes that during the period comprising the federal and local campaigns and until the end of the corresponding polling day, the broadcasting of all government propaganda must be interrupted except for that of education and health services, or the one needed to protect the citizenry in emergencies.
Likewise, the recent reforms rocketed a decree to constitutional level. The new law states that political or electoral propaganda disclosed by the political parties must not include expressions that denigrate the institutions, the parties themselves or slander the people.
23. Which are the different stages of the federal electoral process?
The stages and time span of the federal electoral process vary depending on the kind of election. Midterm or legislative elections, such as those to happen in July 2009, comprise three stages: (1) Preparations of the election; (2) Polling day; and (3) Results and certification of validity of the election that finish the last week of August at the very latest. If the election is integral, in other words to also renew the Senate and the Presidency of the Republic, it comprises a fourth and last stage, the validation of the Presidential election, and the time span is expanded for another month to end in September.
The preparatory stage starts with a session carried out in the IFE’s General Council during the first week of October of the year preceding the election (for the next election it took place on October 3, 2008), and ends on the morning of polling day.
The second stage is polling day, which is invariably held on the first Sunday of July of the corresponding year. It begins at 8:00 a.m. and finishes with the closing of the polling sites installed for the reception and initial tally of votes.
Results are obtained and the validation of elections is issued on the third stage. It begins with the remittance of electoral documents from the polling sites to the district IFE offices, and finishes with the tallying of votes and the certification of results, carried out by the executive bodies of the IFE, or if the need arises, by the resolutions issued by the Electoral Tribunal. In any case, this stage ends in August.
The fourth and last stage is the one that corresponds to the report and declarations of validity of the election and the elected President. It begins at the moment in which the Electoral Tribunal resolves the last of the challenges that were brought against the Presidential election or when there is formal evidence that there were none, and is concluded at the moment in which the High Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal approves the report that contains the final tally and the declarations of validity of the election and the elected President. In any case, this last stage of the electoral process must conclude no later than September 6, following the Presidential election.
24. Is the participation of observers allowed and regulated?
Yes. Since 1993, the law recognizes the exclusive right of Mexican citizens to participate as observers in the preparation and development of the electoral process, as well as those carried out in any territory of the country, as determined by the IFE’s General Council for each election based on a series of provisions contained in the law including the timely application to register before the IFE before May 31 of election year, comply with some requirements of non party affiliation and attend informative and training courses held by the IFE or the observation organizations.
The observation organizations must submit to the IFE’s General Council, 30 days after polling day, a report on the origin, amount and allocation of the funding obtained for the development of their activities. Besides, since the federal elections of 1994 the IFE has a fund to support electoral observation projects in financial and technical terms. This fund is administered by The United Nations through its Development Program.
In addition, a legal reform passed in 1994 opens the possibility to invite and accredit international visitors so that they can witness the development of the fede.