-Sorry, I chose the wrong blog.
In democratic states there’s always a tension between the Executive Branch’s desire to hold the means to reach their objectives, and the limitations and brakes that other branches impose upon them. The principle of democracy -and even before it; liberalism and constitutional monarchy- is limited government: limited by law, by parliament, and by the judicial branch.
In the democracies, the population’s will expressed through elections does not grant those elected an unlimited power, but a distributed power that is balanced by different institutions. This constitutional design makes the exertion of power -in particular the notion of managing the state’s resources, implementing policy, and using legitimate force- a complex process, subject to institutional limitations that rulers may interpret as undesirable obstacles. Then, there is an inevitable tension between two legitimate objectives: the efficacy of government, and the prevention of abuse of power.
In Mexico, since the republic’s birth in 1824, the tension between the three branches of government has existed, as well as the tension between the central government and the local governments. During the era refereed to as “Restored Republic” (1867-1876), President Benito Juarez constantly complained about the obstruction of his policies by a unicameral congress gifted with wide-ranging powers.
To counter the Representative’s(1) power, Juarez tried to, unsuccessfully, reinstate the senate. This was accomplished by his successor, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, in 1874. It seemed like a good solution: A legislative branch divided by two chambers would give the Executive more liberty to act. When Porfirio Diaz came to power and decided to consolidate power, he first controlled the Senate (through the state governors), and later he controlled the House of Representatives(1) as well. Juarez and Lerdo had, unwittingly and without anticipation, facilitated the (almost unlimited) consolidation of power by Diaz.
After the Mexican Revolution, during the long era of hegemonic single party-rule, Presidential power absolutely overshadowed the Legislative branch and had very few checks and balances. However, the democratic transition(2) strengthened the Legislative branch significantly and gave significant independence to the Judicial branch. From 1997 to 2018, divided governments prevailed in Mexico because the President’s party did not have a majority in the Legislative branch(3) and it had to negotiate every reform, every law, every budget, and Departamental(1) post that required multi-branch authorization with them. The administrations in that period believed that they couldn’t be as effective as they wished to be because of the brakes imposed by the opposition through the Congress. Because of that they contemplated, and tried to impose reforms that would facilitate the formation of congressional majorities, particularly through the reduction of Proportional Representation(4) in the chambers. Such attempts failed.
One of the most important topics of negotiation between the executive and legislative powers is that of budgets.
Like in many other negotiated policies, the Legislative branch has been gaining ground. Oversight obligations, that required that the Treasury Department(1) give the Congress periodic reports of how the budget was implemented, were placed in 1995. In the year 2000, the obligations were made more ample. Since 2001, the accounting and methodology of quarterly spending reports were made homologous, and departments had to publish their administrative and financial data online as well.
From 2002 up to 2012(5), the quantity and thoroughness of information that had to be handed over to the Congress was increased.
In 2006 a new law was passed: The Budget and Treasury Responsibility Law, it constrained the government’s leeway in spending and also increased the amount of information that had to be given to the Congress.
It’s true that every administration has had a margin to modify and change the budget during the fiscal year, but in a limited way and forcefully informing the Congress.
The new governing majority, which spawned from the 2018 elections, has the legislative power to modify the rules and limitations of budgetary processes. If it does change it, it would probably weaken the Legislative branch in the process. But majorities don’t last forever, and what the current one does out of it’s own interest might, years later, benefit a new, very different government.
-Jaime Rivera Velazquez for the Excelsior newspaper. Rivera Velazquez is a chairman at the National Electoral Institution; an autonomous branch of government tasked with running elections and regulating political campaigns. He was nominated to his current post by President Peña Nieto in 2017
(1): Anglicized term used for clarity. In Mexico the members of the lower-chamber of congress are called Federal Deputies. The comparable role in the United States is a House of Representatives member. The lower-chamber is the chamber of deputies, as opposed to the American House of Representatives. Mexico’s executive branch is comprised of secretariats and secretaries, as opposed to departments and secretaries in the US.
(2): The democratic transition is the era in which PRI started relinquishing power to other parties like PAN or PRD at the time. The era’s biggest accomplishment was the election of PAN’s Vicente Fox to the Presidency in 2000.
(3): Since the 2000s, some legislative sessions had majorities by the same party as the President. However, his argument is that those majorities could not easily overwhelm minority groups.
(4): Mexican congress members can be elected through direct election (popular vote) and proportional representation; where seats are given to parties that got a significant amount of votes but did not win outright. The current formula is 300 elected/200 proportional for the lower chamber and 128 elected/32 proportional for the upper chamber. The system is widely criticized by the current majority for diminishing their power as well as by independents since the formula benefits party systems.
(5): The Fox administration lasted from 2000-2006 and the Calderon administration from 2006-2012