1. Political Parties Juridical System
The Political Constitution conceives political parties as entities of public interest. Therefore, it acknowledges them as subjects to public legislation and it is the State’s consequent obligation to guarantee the conditions and the assistance needed for their development. On this basis, the Constitution acknowledges three fundamental aims for political parties:
- To promote the people's participation in democratic life.
- To contribute to the national representation integration.
- To assist people in the exercise of organized political power, in compliance with the programs, principles and ideas they propose and through universal, free, secret, and direct suffrage.
Besides, the Constitution establishes that only the citizens may form political parties and associate freely and individually to them, and prohibits the intervention of gremial organizations or with any other social purpose in the creation of parties and any form of corporate affiliation.
Making-up and Legal Acknowledgement of the Political Parties
For an organization made up by citizens to become a political party and posses the rights, prerogatives and obligations established for it by the law, it is mandatory to apply and obtain legal registry before the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). The name of national political party is exclusively awarded to those political organizations that have obtained registry as political parties, by satisfying two essential requirements:
Submit its declaration of principles, as well as a consistent program and bylaws to regulate its activities.
Account for three thousand members in at least twenty of the thirty-two states, or 300 in at least 200 of the 300 single-member districts into which the country is divided for electoral purposes; although the law establishes that the total number of its members may never amount to less than 0.26 percent of the registered voters in the national Electoral Roll used in the ordinary federal election that preceded the submission of the registry application.
The process to obtain the registry as a national political party is subject to time limits and procedures specifically established by law, and invariably take place during the two years between ordinary federal elections. Firstly, any interested organization must notify its purpose to the IFE during the month of January, of the year that follows an ordinary federal election. It must not only carry out a series of actions to prove that it complies with the requirements, but also inform on a monthly basis to the IFE about the origin and destination of the resources obtained for the development of activities aimed at obtaining the registry.
The General Council of the IFE forms a commission to examine the submitted documentation and emits the corresponding resolution. If the application is legitimate, the General Council issues a registry certificate, which is in force as of August 1, of the year before the following ordinary election. The registry is permanent and may only be lost on the grounds specified by law.
Rights, Prerogatives and Obligations
- The rights of the national political parties are grouped in two categories:
- Regarding their participation in electoral processes:
- To participate in the preparation, development and surveillance of the federal electoral processes.
- To organize internal processes to select and nominate candidates in federal elections.
- To make use of the prerogatives and receive public funding for its permanent and electoral activities.
- To form coalitions, both for federal and local elections.
- To participate in state, municipal and Federal District’s elections.
- To sign electoral agreements of participation with National Political Groups.
Regarding their permanent activities:
- To benefit from the guarantees to freely carry out their activities.
- To appoint representatives before the collegiate bodies of the IFE (surveillance commissions and councils).
- To own, possess or administer the real estate necessary for the direct and immediate achievement of their purposes.
- To establish relations with foreign political parties or organizations provided that they maintain their absolute political and economic independence, and that the integrity and sovereignty of the Mexican State and its government agencies are respected.
Besides receiving public funding, the law grants the following prerogatives to political parties:
- To have permanent and free access to radio and television.
- To benefit from a special fiscal system.
- To benefit from postal and telegraph exemptions from payment, whenever necessary to achieve their functions.
Oppositely, the law establishes some obligations for political parties, among which are the following:
- To conduct legal activities and adjust their behavior and that of their affiliates to the principles of the democratic State, respecting at all times the free participation of other political parties and all citizens.
- To maintain the number of affiliates required to preserve their registry and the effective functioning of their statutory bodies; to comply with the affiliation regulations and comply with the statutory procedures for the nomination of candidates.
- To guarantee equity of gender within the directive bodies and nominations to posts of popular election.
- To avoid the use of expressions which denigrate or slander the institutions, parties or people, in political or electoral campaigns.
- Preserve their full independence.
- To admit audits and verifications by the IFE and submit the documents required regarding their income and expenses.
- To comply with their obligations in terms of transparency and information accessibility.
- The obligations of the parties in terms of transparency and information accessibility are among the main innovations resulting from the latest legal reforms on the matter. Hence, the law establishes the right to any person to access the public information (there is of non public, confidential and reserved kind) of the parties, by means of specific requests to the IFE.
- Included in the public information to which free access is guaranteed (and usually available through the IFE and political parties site in the Internet), is the one regarding the basic documents, regulations, general agreements and dispositions; their national directory and the list of salaries of their members; their electoral platforms and governing programs; their summons for the election of authorities or candidates; the amounts of the public funding received during the last five years; their annual or partial informs on income and expenses including pre-campaigns and campaigns, after the surveillance processes established by the law; and the resolutions of their disciplinary bodies at all levels, among others.
Making up of Fronts, Coalitions and Mergers
The agreements signed by two or more national political parties to attain political and social goals of non-electoral kind through specific strategies and joint actions are called fronts. The agreement signed to constitute a front must state its duration, causes and purposes, as well as the manner in which the political parties will use their joint prerogatives. The agreements must be submitted to the IFE, which has a period of ten workdays to decide whether they comply with the legal requirements. The parties that form a front maintain their own legal personality, registry and identity.
Coalitions are a prototypical alliance between two or more political parties, and sometimes, national political associations to appoint common candidates in federal or local elections, strictly for electoral purposes. According to the latest reforms to the electoral legislation, some of the regulations to form coalitions have changed. Political parties may continue creating coalitions for the election of President, and members of the Lower and Upper Chamber, but only for those elected by the majority principle. Therefore, they may not appoint common candidates for seats by the principle of proportional representation.
When general elections take place, parties may form different coalitions for different elections; those for President, Lower Chamber members and Upper Chamber members, but if they do so for all the majority Lower Chamber members (300 districts) or Upper Chamber members (thirty-two states), the coalition must also include the presidential candidate. If they do not intend to do so, then they must limit the coalition to no more than 200 of the 300 single-member districts for the Lower Chamber and to 20 of the thirty-two states for the Upper Chamber. In the case of the midterm legislative elections of 2009, the coalitions for the members of the Lower Chamber may be partial (up to 200 districts) or total (all 300 districts).
Another novelty establishes that regardless the type and terms of a coalition, each one of the parties will display its own symbol separately on the voting ballot. The political parties that make up a coalition must still obtain 2 percent of the total votes at a national level in order to maintain their registry, but such figure may not be derived from an agreement. It must result form direct and exclusive voting.
All coalition agreements must be submitted to the President of the General Council of the IFE no later than 30 days before the beginning of the pre-campaigns for the respective election. The General Council must resolve the applications for coalitions in a period of 10 days after the submission of the agreement. All agreements expire automatically after the results are given and the declaration of validity of the elections is issued.
Finally, the Merger consists of the union of two or more national political parties to conform a new political party or to merge into one of them. The corresponding agreement must be signed and submitted to the President of the General Council of the IFE, so that the General Council resolves as it deems appropriate within thirty days after the submission of the documentation. For electoral purposes, the agreement must be passed on the year before the election at the latest. For legal purposes, the date of effect of the new party registry is the one corresponding to the oldest of the parties that participate in the merger.
Grounds for the Loss of Registry
The legislation considers six grounds for a national political party to lose its registry. Two of them refer to its electoral outcome and participation: failing to participate in an ordinary federal electoral process, and failing to win at least 2 percent of the votes cast in any federal election, whether participating on its own or as part of a coalition.
The remaining four grounds specifically refer to having failed to comply with the necessary requirements to obtain its registry; having incurred in serious and systematic violations to electoral rules; having been declared dissolved by its members, or having merged with another political party. The loss of registry has no effect on the triumphs obtained by its candidates through the principle of relative majority in federal elections.
Financing and Monitoring of Political Parties System
In 1986, political parties achieved the constitutional right to receive public funding for the activities aimed at fulfilling their duties. Ever since then, and on that basis, the electoral legislation has established, developed and perfected provisions aimed at regulating, controlling and supervising the funding system of the political parties and electoral campaigns in a clear, accurate and integral fashion.
In fact, recent constitutional and legal reforms starting in 1993 and being the latest those passed by the Congress at the end of 2007, have made a set of adjustments and innovations, with the purpose of guaranteeing conditions of equity in the electoral contest and to ensure a more transparent accountability and a closer monitoring regarding the funding of parties and campaigns.
1. Public Funding
Firstly, it must be outlined that the Constitution establishes that public funding must prevail over private sources of funding. Therefore, no party may collect funds for an amount that equals or exceeds the one received from public funding. Public funding is granted under three differentiated concepts and the General Council of the IFE is in charge of determining the amounts based on procedures provided for by law.
For permanent ordinary activities
This kind of funding is assigned to support ordinary activities of the political parties and is granted permanently. The total amount is determined annually by multiplying the total number of citizens registered in the Electoral Roll in July every year by 65 percent of the minimum wage established for the Federal District.
Thirty percent is allocated in equal parts to all political parties with parliamentary representation and the other 70 percent is distributed according to the percentage of votes gained of the total sum cast for each political party with representation in Congress in the preceding election for Lower Chamber members at national level. The amount corresponding to each political party is delivered in monthly installments according to the annual budgetary timetable. According to the law, each political party must spend at least 2 percent of its public funding for its specific activities (see infra) and an additional 2 percent for the training, promoting and developing of political leadership of women.
For campaign expenses
This funding is specifically intended to finance activities to obtain votes. Therefore, it is only granted in election years. In years of general federal elections (President, Lower and Upper Chamber), each party is granted an additional amount equal to 50 percent of the funding for ordinary activities corresponding to that year. During the years when only the 500 seats of the Lower Chamber are renewed, each political party receives for campaign expenses an amount equal to 30 percent of the amount received for ordinary activities.
For specific activities as entities of public interest
The subsidy granted for these activities aims at supporting political parties in activities that concern political training and education, socio-economic and political research, as well as editorial tasks. With this purpose, an additional amount that equals 3 percent the amount for ordinary activities, is granted and is also distributed on the same grounds, that is, 30 percent equally, and the remaining 70 percent according to the representation of each party in Congress.
For political parties that obtained their registration after the last federal election or that kept their registry but do not have representation in Congress, the law establishes that each one of them must receive public funding as follows: 2 percent of the total amount that corresponds to political parties for permanent ordinary activities; the corresponding additional amount for electoral expenses and only the equalitarian part of the funding for specific activities.
2. Private Funding
The law specifies and regulates four sources of private funding for political parties:
a) From members: it comprises the ordinary and extraordinary fees of members and the contributions of their social organizations, whose amounts and frequency are freely determined by each political party. It also includes the voluntary and personal fees that the candidates of each party contribute to their own campaigns, and the internal party body in charge of its finances establishes the ceilings.
b) From supporters: it includes all donations and contributions, in money or goods, freely and voluntarily made by Mexican individuals or corporations that reside in the country, provided they are not comprised among the categories specifically prohibited by law.
c) Self-financing: it includes all the income obtained from promotional activities, such as conferences, shows, games, draws, cultural events, sales of publications or similar that are carried out in order to collect funds.
d) From financial yields: it comprises the yields generated through the funds that the political parties may create with their own patrimony in Mexican banks. The law establishes that all accounts, funds or trusteeships are not protected by bank secrecy so that the IFE may supervise them at all times.
Regarding the ceilings for private funding, no political party may receive an annual amount of funding from its members (including candidates), self-financing and collections in rallies or the streets, which exceeds the 10 percent established as a limit for campaign expenses of the preceding presidential election. Besides, contributions in cash by individuals or organizations have a limit, which equals 0.5 percent of the same ceiling for campaign expenses of the previous presidential election.
3. Prohibitions and Restrictions to Party Funding
The electoral legislation specifically points out the different private and public agencies, both domestic and foreign, that may not make contributions or donations to the political parties, whether in money or goods, either by themselves or through third parties. Among them are the Federal Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches; the state and town halls; foreign political parties, individuals or corporations; international organizations of any nature; religious ministers, and associations, churches or groups of any religion or sect; people who live or work abroad; and Mexican mercantile corporations.
Likewise, it sets forth that political parties and groups may not request credits from the development bank to finance their activities, nor receive contributions from unidentified individuals, except for those obtained through collections in rallies or on the street.
4. Accountability and Monitoring System
The criteria, procedures, and mechanisms for the transparency and accountability on the origin and destination of financial resources collected and handled by political parties have developed simultaneously with the widening and strengthening of the provisions regarding the political parties funding system. The latest updates on this matter resulted from the legal and constitutional reforms of 2007 and have to do with the creation of a specialized technical entity in charge of the control and monitoring of the parties finances and campaigns. It is bestowed with attributions to carry out these responsibilities, especially since it is not limited by bank or fiscal secrecy.
Political parties must appoint an internal agency in charge of receiving and administering general and campaign resources, as well as of filing annual, pre-campaign and campaign reports on the origin, amount, destination and use of the income received through any kind of funding, in the following terms:
Annual reports. Political parties and groups must file an annual report within sixty days after the last day of December of the fiscal year being reported. All income and ordinary expenses must be clearly accounted for, including a combined report of its patrimony (authorized and signed by an external auditor appointed by the party itself), as well as a report on the expenses assigned to their internal selection processes and pre-campaigns and the income obtained for their funding.
Quarterly reports. During non-electoral years, political parties must file quarterly reports on the advance of ordinary income and expenses, within the first 30 days after the end of every quarter for informative purposes.
Pre-campaign reports. Within the first 30 days after the end of the pre-campaigns, political parties must file a report for each one of the registered pre-candidates, specifying the origin, amount, and expenses made, as well as a list of the pre-candidates who failed to file their informs accordint to the law.
Filling of campaign reports. Political parties must file a preliminary report per election campaign conducted within the first 15 days of June prior the election. It must contain information updated to May 30. A final report must be filed on income and expenses, within the 60 days after election day.
Special monitoring agency.
The revision of the reports filed by the political parties and groups regarding the origin and destination of their ordinary, pre-campaign and campaign expenses, as well as the monitoring of their resources, and the accounting and financial status of the parties is a faculty of the IFE’s General Council Oversight Unit for the Resources of the Political Parties.
This specialized body is responsible for a number of activities among which the following stand out: to work out general guidelines applicable to political parties for accounting and recording; to order audits and inspections, whether directly or through third parties; to provide political parties with guidance and counseling and training in surveillance matter; and to require from private or public individuals or corporations the information needed for the performance of its activities regarding political parties. Besides, this unit is not limited by bank, fiscal or fiduciary secrecy for the performance of its activities.
The agency has a sixty-day limit to scrutinize the pre-campaign and annual reports and 120 days to scrutinize the campaign reports. At all times, it has the authority to request the necessary documentation to prove the reliability of the reports from the political parties. Political parties must be informed of any mistake or omission and are granted additional terms to file clarifications or amendments. Political parties or any individual subject to a surveillance process are entitled to be heard. In any case, the unit has a 20-day limit to elaborate a consolidated advisory opinion that must be submitted to the General Council, which is entitled to impose the corresponding penalties, when applicable.
Political parties may appeal the General Council’s advisory opinion and resolution before the Federal Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Branch, provided that they respect the conditions and terms established by the law.
It must be emphasized that due to the latest reforms on electoral legislation, an instruction was included for the IFE to disclose through internet the resolutions of the revisions made, as well as the resolutions of the Electoral Tribunal when appropriate. Nevertheless, this had been a usual practice of the IFE through an agreement made by the General Council with the purpose of contributing to more transparency and disclosure of the information and resolutions regarding the accountability of the political parties financial status.
3. Equity Conditions of the Electoral Contest
In the frame of the rights and prerogatives system of the political parties, one of the main concerns of the reforms to electoral legislation carried out during the nineties was to ensure equal opportunities in the electoral contest. In this matter, two fundamental provisions may be outlined: the guarantees and conditions of access to the mass media that dramatically changed due to the most recent constitutional and legal reforms, and the accompanying changes to the setting of ceilings to campaign expenses.
Regulations on the Access and Use of Radio and Television with Electoral Purposes
In 1973, political parties were granted the right to have free access to radio and television, but only during election periods. Since 1987, such prerogative became permanent and comprised 15 minutes a month per political party and was complemented by additional free slots during electoral periods, that since 1996 added up to 250 hours of radio broadcast, and 200 hours of television transmission and up to 10 thousand 20-minute slots on the radio and 400 on television, which had to be acquired and distributed by the IFE on a monthly basis. From the additional time, 30 percent was distributed equally among all the political parties, and the remaining 70 percent was distributed proportionally to the votes obtained.
Until the beginning of 2008, such free access scheme coexisted with a series of legal dispositions which acknowledged and controlled the exclusive right of the political parties to hire commercial slots in radio and television during electoral periods and prohibited third parties to hire radio or television propaganda either in favor or against any political party or candidate.
Such scheme was significantly modified with the constitutional reforms of 2007-2009. Nowadays, all parties (including pre-candidates and candidates) may only access the media by means of the slots in radio and television allotted to the State, that is, the use of those slots is exclusive of the political parties and entirely free. It is even prohibited to broadcast within the national territory, radio or television propaganda hired abroad with the purpose of influencing in favor or against any political party or candidate.
To this purpose, the IFE is the only authority in charge of administering radio and television slots belonging to the State, for the political parties to exercise their prerogative of permanent use, and for the use of the Institute itself as well as the other electoral authorities. As the single authority, the IFE is also responsible of administering the time spans corresponding to the political parties for local elections and the time requested by the authorities responsible for the organization of local elections.
The integral nature of this attribution where political parties and electoral authorities converge with local and federal electoral processes in their different stages, requires the law to clearly establish the slots to be administered by the IFE for each variety and the way to distribute those slots between political parties and electoral entities.
We invite all interested readers who are willing to learn the regulations on this matter, to consult the specialized literature prepared by the IFE or go directly to the references. Regarding strictly the time corresponding to the national political parties and in case of, the federal electoral processes, the following general rules apply:
- The access remains permanent, but whereas the time that is distributed daily between the political parties is four minutes in radio and three in television, during electoral periods the daily allowance is significantly increased.
- In fact, during the pre-campaigns, the time distributed on a daily basis amounts to 18 minutes equally for television and radio stations, and increases to 41 minutes a day per channel and station during campaign periods.
- The prerogative comprises all concessionary media (commercial) and licensed (public or social), that include 1,800 radio stations and 500 TV channels operating within the country.
- During non-electoral periods, the prerogative comprises a five-minute monthly program and 20-minute slots, equally distributed between all parties.
- During electoral periods (pre-campaigns and campaigns) the time is divided into 30, 60 and 120-second slots, assorted between 6:00 a.m. and 12 p.m. and distributed among the political parties under the proportionality formula used for direct public funding: 30 percent equally and 70 percent according to the number of votes obtained in the previous Lower Chamber election.
- On this basis and to ensure the adequate participation of all political parties in this matter, there is a radio and television committee in the IFE, made up by a representative of each one of the political parties, three Electoral Counselors and a Technical Secretary (the IFE’s Executive Director of Prerogatives and Political Parties), responsible for approving the terms for the transmission of messages and programs. Concessionaries and license holders may not alter those terms nor ask for additional requirements to those approved by the Committee for the transmission of promotional materials.
- The law establishes that political or electoral advertisement broadcasted by the parties, coalitions and candidates must avoid the use of expressions that denigrate or slander the institutions, other political parties or the people. In this regards, the General Council of the IFE is entitled to command the immediate interruption of any radio or television message that violates this disposition.
- Also, the General Council of the IFE must monitor the electoral pre-campaign and campaign transmissions included in the radio and television news programs and disclose the results of the monitoring at least every two weeks. Political parties, coalitions and candidates are entitled to challenge the information presented by the media when such information is considered inaccurate.
- Another novelty of the recent reforms is the authority granted to the IFE to coordinate two debates between the candidates registered in every presidential election for their transmission on radio and television. For that purpose, the General Council is entitled to determine the rules and dates for them considering the political parties’ opinions.
- Likewise, it is also a novelty the prohibition of broadcasting all government propaganda except for the information campaigns realated to education and health as well as those aimed at protecting the citizenry in case of emergency, on all social communication media during federal campaigns.
4. Ceilings on Campaign Expenses
Since 1993, the law entitles the IFE to set ceilings to the expenses in which the political parties, coalitions, or candidates may incur during the electoral campaigns for President and Chamber members. Since party plurality and competitiveness are growing, the main aim of these provisions is to offer conditions of equity in the electoral contest, in order to prevent that economic differences between political groups become a deciding factor on the outcome of the elections.
Because of the recent reforms on electoral matter and the new free access scheme of political parties to radio and television (that eliminated the high expenditure of hiring time slots thus increasing the cost of campaigns), the formulas used by the General Council of the IFE to determine the ceilings on campaign expenses were tuned down to the following:
- For presidential elections the ceilings must be equal to 20 percent of the public funding for campaign expenses established for all parties on the year of presidential elections.
- For relative majority Lower Chamber members, the amount is that resulting from dividing the ceilings for the presidential election campaign into 300, that is, into the number of districts into which the national territory is divided for the election of majority Lower Chamber representatives.
- For each one of the Upper Chamber formulas elected by the majority principle (by state), the ceilings must amount the result from multiplying the ceilings for the Lower Chamber representatives by the number of districts comprised by the entity, but without considering a number of districts more than 20. Therefore, for those states that have more than 20 as the state of Mexico (40), the Federal District (27) or Veracruz (21), only 20 will be considered.
The law states that campaign ceilings include the expenses on account of generic advertisement (placards, banners, meetings in rented premises, utilitarian propaganda, etcetera); and campaign overhead expenses (salaries and wages of the temporary staff, occasional renting of real estate or movable items, transportation for material or staff, and similar ones); printed propaganda and the production of radio and television messages. However, the ceilings do not include the expenses for the ordinary operation of parties nor for the support of their directive bodies and organizations.