Mexicos Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections of July 2, 2000

CRS Report for Congress
Mexico’s Presidential, Legislative, and
Local Elections of July 2, 2000
K. Larry Storrs
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Mexico held historic elections on July 2, 2000, that demonstrated Mexico’s
evolution toward fully democratic government since an opposition president was elected
for the first time in 71 years. Coming after a series of electoral reforms in the 1990s, the
elections were supervised by independent and widely respected Mexican electoral
authorities, and were closely watched by party poll watchers, and domestic and
international observers. Although polls suggested a close presidential race, final results
showed Vicente Fox of the conservative Alliance for Change (PAN and PVEM) winning
strongly, with 42.52% of the vote, over Francisco Labastida of the long-ruling, centrist
PRI, with 36.10% of the vote. President-elect Fox will take office on December 1, 2000.
In the congressional elections, no party will have a majority in either chamber, although
Fox’s coalition will have the largest bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, and the PRI will
have the largest bloc in the Senate. As a result, significant negotiation and coalition-
building will be necessary. In the other major races, the PAN won the two governorship
races in Guanajuato and Morelos, while the leftist parties once again won the important
race for Mayor of the Mexico City Federal District. This short report contains final
results after resolution of disputes and will not be updated. For additional information
see CRS Issue Brief IB10047, Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 106th Congress.
With President Ernesto Zedillo in the last year of his six year term (December 1994-
December 2000), and with no re-election permitted, the country held an important election
on July 2, 2000. In these elections the country elected a new president, a new legislature,
a new mayor and legislative assembly in the Mexico City Federal District, and new
governors in the states of Guanajuato and Morelos. Under a series of electoral reforms
enacted in the 1990s, the election was supervised by the independent and widely respected
Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), and was closely watched by party poll watchers, as well
as domestic and international observers. The election was considered to be a test of
Mexico’s evolution toward fully democratic government since this was the first

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presidential election to be supervised by fully independent and autonomous electoral
Background on Recent Elections and the Zedillo Administration
1994 Presidential Election. Ernesto Zedillo of the long-ruling and now-centrist
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was elected President with 50% of the valid vote
in the August 1994 election, and had comfortable majorities in both legislative chambers.
Diego Fernandez de Cevallos of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) came in
second with 27% of the vote, and Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas of the center-left Party of the
Democratic Revolution (PRD) came in third with 17% of the vote.
1997 Congressional and Local Elections. In the watershed midterm legislative
elections of July 6, 1997, the PRI lost its majority in the Chamber of Deputies, its
two-thirds majority in the Senate, and it lost the first time election for mayor of the all-
important Mexico City Federal District. Following that election and some shifting of
members to independent status, in the 128-member Senate, the PRI has 73 senators
(57%), the PAN has 30 (23.4%) and the PRD has 16 (12.5%), while the Labor Party (PT)
has 1 member (less than 1%) and there are 8 independents (6.25%). In the 500-seat
Chamber of Deputies, the PRI has 237 seats (47.4%), the PRD has 125 (25%), the PAN
has 120 (24%), the Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM) has 6 seats (1.2%), the PT
has 7 (1.4%), and there are 5 independents (1%). Since 1997, the opposition parties have
remained united enough in the Chamber of Deputies to control more major committees
(committee chairmanships are distributed roughly proportionate to the national vote, not
to the majority party). The opposition parties succeeded in increasing social and local
government funding in budget debates, and in demanding more transparency in
government practices, including an audit of the bank protection agency responsible for
rescuing the banks in the 1994-1995 financial crisis, and the creation of a commission to
monitor any use of state resources in the current election campaign. In the important
Mayorship of the Mexico City Federal District, the PRD won overwhelmingly, electing
two-time presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas for the three-year term as Mayor.
Zedillo Administration. Throughout his term (1994-2000), President Zedillo
continued the free market policies of his predecessor (Raul Salinas de Gortari),
implemented austerity measures to emerge from the 1994-1995 financial crisis, and
encouraged cooperation with the United States as a partner in the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He also reformed the police, strengthened democracy, and
curtailed the threat of violence in the far southeastern state of Chiapas, although serious
human rights concerns continue. By early 2000, Mexico had experienced four years of
economic recovery, with GDP growth averaging about 5% per year (5.1% in 1996, 7%
in 1997, 4.8% in 1998, and 3.7% in 1999). However, the government admitted that it
would take some time to restore the living standards prevailing before the peso devaluation
crisis, and many observers point to continuing widespread poverty and inequality in the
country. Officials predicted growth in 2000 of 4.5%, with inflation under 10%.

Major Parties and Coalitions in the July 2000 Elections
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Known by another name, this party was
originally founded in 1929 and is the party that has governed Mexico with nearly complete
dominance from the days of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1940) to the present,
espousing Mexican nationalism, and drawing support from the three sectors of the party --
the workers, the peasantry, and the employees of the state. Favoring a generally leftist
foreign policy (support for Cuba under Castro and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas) and
heavy involvement of the state in the economy, the PRI was generally considered to be a
left-of-center political party in the past. With the free market reforms, acceptance of
NAFTA, and more cooperative relations with the United States under Salinas and Zedillo,
the PRI is now considered a centrist party. Until 1989 all governors were from the PRI,
but since that time the opposition has made steady gains and by early 2000 controlled 11
of 32 statehouses, including the Federal District, although the PRI did recapture
Chihuauha in the north in 1998. While the PRI has had majority control of both chambers
throughout its history, following the 1997 elections, the PRI had 237 seats in the 500-seat
Chamber of Deputies, and the opposition parties had the majority if they remained united.
The PRI did have a majority in the Senate, with 73 Senators in the 128-seat Senate.
Francisco Labastida, former Minister of Government, was selected as the presidential
candidate for the July 2000 election in an highly touted open primary in November 1999.
National Action Party (PAN) and the Alliance for Change. The PAN was
founded in 1939, mostly as a conservative reaction to the PRI. It has always been
considered to be the conservative party in Mexico, favoring free enterprise and more pro-
clerical policies. It stresses clean and transparent government. Many of its economic
policies were adopted by the current PRI, and the PAN often breaks with the opposition
because of agreement with the PRI on economic principles. While the PAN has not been
successful in presidential contests, it has elected governors and mayors in many of the
northern and central states, and by early 2000 PAN governors were in office in six states
(Aguascalientes, Baja California Norte, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, and Queretaro).
At that time, it had 120 members in the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies, and 30 Senators
in the 128-seat Senate. After efforts by the PAN and the PRD to agree on a common
candidate for the opposition came to an impasse in September 1999, Vicente Fox,
Governor of Guanajuato, was selected as the PAN’s presidential contender. The PAN
subsequently negotiated an alliance with the pro-environment Green Ecological Party of
Mexico (PVEM) which is known as the Alliance for Change.
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Alliance for Mexico. The
PRD was formally founded in 1990 from elements that split off from the PRI and other
leftist parties who supported the presidential candidacy of Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas in the
1988 election. It espouses a more leftist position, arguing that NAFTA and the free
enterprise policies have benefitted the wealthy and middle classes, but have neglected the
lower classes. The party tends to favor a larger role for the state and a more independent
foreign policy. The major victory for the party was Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas winning the
mayorship of the Mexico City Federal District in the July 1997 election, although the party
has won governorships in four less populous states (Baja California Sur, Zacatecas,
Tlaxcala, and Nayarit) in coalition with other parties. In early 2000, the PRD had 125
seats in the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies (making it the second largest delegation) and
16 seats in the 128-seat Senate (making it the third largest delegation). When negotiations
to designate a single opposition candidate failed in September 1999, Cuauhtemoc

Cárdenas was selected as the PRD’s presidential candidate. The PRD subsequently
negotiated an alliance with four minor and mostly leftist political parties – the Labor Party
(PT), the Social Alliance Party (PAS), the Convergence for Democracy (CD), and the
Nationalist Society Party (PSN). The alliance is known as the Alliance for Mexico.
Candidates and Results in the July 2000 Presidential Election
Among the major candidates in the presidential election campaign, the candidate for
the PRI was Francisco Labastida, a former Governor of Sinaloa and Minister of
Government, who represented continuity of the regime, with more attention to social
issues. He was selected as the PRI candidate in an open primary in November 1999. The
candidate for the Alliance for Change (PAN and PVEM) was Vicente Fox, a former
Coca Cola executive and the Governor of Guanajuato, who favored a pro-business
approach and spoke directly about the need for change to end corruption and to achieve
full democracy. The candidate for the Alliance for Mexico (PRD and four minor
parties) was Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, son of a famous president, former Governor of
Michoacan, two-time presidential candidate (1988 and 1994) after leaving the PRI, and
recently Mayor of Mexico City, who favored more nationalistic and social welfare policies.
Three minor candidates were also running in the presidential race: ex-PRIsta Manuel
Camacho Solis running for the Democratic Center Party (PCD); longtime leftist Gilberto
Rincon Gallardo running for the Social Democracy Party (DS); and ex-PRD member
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, running for the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution (PARM)
until he withdrew in the final weeks and cast his lot with Fox and the Alliance for Change.
During the campaign, opposition parties claimed that the PRI was using coercion and
vote buying to gain votes by requiring government bureaucrats to support the PRI and by
offering various inducements to party faithful, particularly in rural areas, and Vicente Fox
stated at one point that a victory by the PRI by a close margin might not be legitimate,
given the possibility of corruption. PRI spokesmen disputed the charges and criticized
those casting doubt on the election, while also leveling charges in the final weeks of the
campaign that Fox had received considerable funding from abroad. Following the TV
debates among the candidates in April and May, most dailies reported that Fox won the
debates, although some faulted Fox for his stubbornness in the negotiations over the
arrangements for the second debate. According to most of the latest polls, released in the
second half of June 2000, Labastida and Fox were in a technical tie, with the margin of
error being greater than the difference between the two candidates, although most polls
gave Fox the advantage in the urban areas and Labastida the advantage in the rural areas.
By the evening of the election of July 2, 2000, Mexican electoral authorities were able
to announce, based on a series of quick counts and preliminary election results, that
opposition candidate Vicente Fox of the Alliance for Change (PAN and PVEM) had won
the presidential election by a significant margin. That same evening, PRI candidate
Labastida and PRD candidate Cardenas conceded the election, and President Zedillo
offered his assistance in the coming transition. Final results show Fox winning with
42.52% of the vote, while Labastida came in second with 36.10% of the vote, and
Cardenas came in third with 16.64% of the vote, with the remaining votes being blank,
null, or for minor presidential candidates. Fox won in 20 of the 32 states, Labastida won
in 11, and Cardenas won in only one state.

Results of the July 2000 Congressional Elections
Chamber of Deputies. The Chamber is composed of 500 members with three-year
terms (300 elected by plurality in single-member districts, and 200 elected by proportional
representation in five 40-member “plurinominal” districts). Final results show the Alliance
for Change (PAN/PVEM) with 38.23% of the vote and 224 deputies (207 for the PAN,
and 17 for PVEM), making it the largest bloc in the Chamber. The PRI came in second
place with 36.91% of the vote and 211 deputies, and the PRD/Alliance for Mexico came
in third with 18.69% of the vote and 66 deputies (50 for the PRD, 7 for PT, and 9 for
other leftist parties).
Senate. The Senate is composed of 128 members with six year terms (64, or 2 from
each state, elected by plurality; 32 elected from the first minority in each state; and 32
elected by national proportional representation). Final results show the Alliance for
Change (PAN/PVEM) with 38.11% of the vote and 51 senators (46 for PAN, 5 for
PVEM), the largest percentage of the votes, but not the largest delegation. The PRI, with
36.74% of the vote, will have 60 senators, the largest delegation, while the PRD/Alliance
for Mexico, with 18.85% of the vote, will have only 17 senators. The PRI has the largest
delegation because of the intricacies of the senate election process (the PRI won in 16
states, did well in the national proportional representation, and was the first minority in 15
states, while the PAN won in 14 states and was the first minority in 10 states).
These results suggest that the new President will have to work with the various
parties to fashion coalitions to enact legislation. This may be difficult because both the
PRI and the PRD oppose many PAN policies, although PAN-PRD coalitions have
functioned in several states to oust PRI governments. With the Chamber, the new
President will need to hold the support of the 15 PVEM deputies and obtain support from
27 additional deputies to gain a majority; and with the Senate, he will need to hold the
support of the 5 PVEM senators and obtain support from 14 additional senators.
Results of the July 2000 Mexico City Federal District Elections
While the Federal District is a city, not a state, and the executive officer is called the
Chief of Government, not a Governor, in many ways this populous jurisdiction is the
equivalent of a major state and is considered a major prize. In the campaign for Mayor
(or Chief of Government), the candidate of the Alliance for Mexico (PRD, PT, etc.)
was Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former politician from the state of Tabasco, campaign
manager and President of the PRD, who represented the incumbent PRD Administrations
of Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas and substitute Mayor Rosario Robles. The candidate
of the PRI was Jesus Silva Herzog, a former Finance Minister and Ambassador to the
United States, who criticized the PRD Administration for failing to deal with crime and
community problems. The candidate for the Alliance for Change (PAN, PVEM) was
Santiago Creel, a former lawyer and academic and a counselor in the Federal Electoral
Institute (IFE), who called for honesty and change to deal with the city’s many problems.
The campaign was enlivened by charges by the PRD Attorney General for the District
that the current federal Minister of Tourism from the PRI, Oscar Espinoza, embezzled $42
million in government funds when he was the appointed Mayor of the District (1994-

1997). The PRI countered that the PRD Attorney General had failed to reduce crime and

may have pressured a key witness to give false incriminating evidence in the high-profile
case of the June 1999 drug-related killing of TV personality “Paco” Stanley.
According to the late June polls, the PRD candidate was leading strongly, with the
PRI and PAN candidates lagging behind together, but on the evening of the election it
became a neck and neck contest between the PRD frontrunner and the PAN challenger as
the Alliance for Change did surprisingly well in the Federal District. Final results gave
Mauuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Alliance for Mexico the victory with 33.44% of the
vote, with Santiago Creel of the conservative Alliance for Change with 32.98% of the vote
in second place, and Jesus Silva Herzog of the PRI coming in third with 22.4% of the vote.
Mayor-elect Lopez Obrador will face substantial opposition in the Federal District
Legislative Assembly, but not the Alliance for Change majority originally announced.
After a dispute over proportional representation was resolved by the Federal Electoral
Tribunal, the Alliance for Change (PAN/PVEM) will have 25 seats in the 66-seat chamber,
while the PRD and other leftist parties will have 25 seats as well (down from the 38 seats
controlled before the election) and the PRI will have 16 seats. In the first time election of
neighborhood administrators, the leftist parties won 10 of the 16 neighborhoods, the
Alliance for Change won 6, and the PRI was left without a victory in this area.
Expectations for Fox Presidency
After a fairly long period of preparation following the election, President-elect Fox
will assume the mantel of the presidency on December 1, 2000. In speeches and
statements during the campaign and the post-election period, including visits to Latin
America, the United States, and Europe, he has suggested some of the initiatives he plans
to propose, although his support in Congress is uncertain. As a former businessman, he
has suggested that the Fox administration will implement policies more favorable to
businessmen and private enterprise in order to create more jobs in Mexico and to increase
the rate of growth in the country. This will include opening the electricity sector to private
investment but also will include credits and support for small businessmen, programs to
aid the poorer sectors of society, and greatly expanded educational opportunities to give
new workers the necessary skills for the modern economy. He has promised to encourage
democracy and to attack corruption and drug trafficking activities, including reform of the
law enforcement system. With regard to the unsolved conflict in Chiapas, he has indicated
that he will seek to implement the agreement on indigenous rights, reduce the presence of
the army, and seek a negotiated settlement of the issues.
Regarding relations with the United States, during his August 2000 trip to the United
States, he called for working toward a more open border in the long term and for support
for Mexico from the other NAFTA partners, similar to the support given in the European
Union, to reduce wage and economic differences between the countries. He called for the
United States to drop the unilateral certification of drug producing and transit countries
and to utilize multilateral mechanisms. He promised to strengthen cooperative efforts in
many areas with the United States in the coming years.