Mexicos Congress and July 2003 Elections

CRS Report for Congress
Mexico’s Congress and July 2003 Elections
K. Larry Storrs
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
On July 6, 2003, Mexico held nation-wide elections to renew the membership of
the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies and to elect local officials in ten states. Coming at
the mid-point of the six-year term of President Vicente Fox, these elections, by
determining the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress, significantly affect
President Fox’s ability to enact his programs and set the stage for coming presidential
elections in 2006. Official results indicate that President Fox’s conservative National
Action Party (PAN) fared poorly, while the long-ruling centrist Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) secured a dominant position in Congress, and the leftist Party
of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) increased representation in Congress and
consolidated local control in the Mexico City Federal District. This suggests that
President Fox will have even more difficulty enacting his proposals in the new
Congress. This short report provides background on the functioning of the Mexican
Congress and summarizes the results of the 2003 election. The report will be updated
to indicate the result of pending action in the electoral tribunal. For further information,
see CRS Report RL31876, Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 108th Congress.
Background on Mexico’s Congress
Composition and Method of Election. Mexico’s legislative branch includes
the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) and the 128-seat Senate of the
Republic (the upper house). The current legislature is the 58th Legislature (usually
indicated by roman numerals), with the numbering coinciding with the three-year terms
of the Chamber of Deputies. The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 500 deputies with
three-year terms (300 elected by plurality in single-member districts and 200 elected by
proportional representation in five 40-member “plurinominal” districts). The Senate is
composed of 128 senators with six-year terms (64, or 2 from each state, elected by
plurality; 32 elected from the first minority — the runner-up — in each state; and 32
elected by national proportional representation).
Sessions. The legislature must hold two ordinary sessions per year. The first
session begins on September 1, when the President gives his report to the nation, similar
to the State of the Union address; it extends until December 15, except when a new

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

President takes office on December 1, in which case Congress may extend until December

31. The second session begins on March 15 and extends to April 30. In case of need,

extraordinary sessions may be called, more commonly at the end of the year when action
on the President’s budget is required. During the recess periods, the Permanent
Commission, consisting of 19 members from the Chamber of Deputies and 18 members
from the Senate, may act, and is responsible for convening extraordinary sessions.
Organization. The two chambers of Congress are organized into leadership bodies
and into committees to prepare and consider legislation. The Chamber of Deputies has
24 ordinary commissions or committees, 6 special committees, and 2 bicameral
committees; while the Senate has 48 commissions or committees. Each chamber has a
leadership council, called the Directive Table (Mesa Directiva), with multi-party
representation, that directs the operation of the legislative body; and each chamber also
has a Political Coordination Council (Junta de Coordinación Política) with a
representative from each of the political parties to coordinate policies.
Differences from U.S. Congress. Mexico’s Congress is strikingly different
from the U.S. Congress in several regards. (1) Shared Leadership: In the Mexican
Congress, leadership is shared among the parties, with chairmanships accorded to all
parties roughly proportionate to the share of seats in the chamber, and with major parties
participating in the Directive Table. (2) No Re-election: Growing out of the Mexican
Revolution’s slogan “effective suffrage, no re-election,” representatives in the Mexican
Congress may not be immediately re-elected, although they may run for office in the other
chamber, or run again after an intervening term. Critics argue that this no re-election
provision undermines the principle of accountability and the development of expertise in
a subject matter. Others see the principle of no re-election as a hard-won victory and are
reluctant to change the system. (3) Division of Committee Chairmanships between
Chambers: Under a political accord in the Mexican Congress, the parties have agreed
that the same party may not control the chairmanship of the same commission or
committee in both chambers. Taken together, these mechanisms create a series of checks
and balances and enhance the requirements for consensus-building to enact legislation.
Results of the July 2000 Election
Mexico’s 58th Legislature (2000-2003) is the product of the July 2000 elections
which ended the 71-year control of the Presidency by the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI), and continued the trend toward dispersion of power in the two chambers of
the Congress. In the period leading up to the election, several major election reforms
were adopted in the 1990s that established an independent and widely respected Federal
Electoral Institute (IFE), provided for the direct election of the mayor of the Mexico City
Federal District, guaranteed equal access to the media, and placed controls on campaign
spending. In the July 1997 congressional elections, while the PRI remained the single
largest party, it lost its long-held majority in the Chamber of Deputies, it lost the
two-thirds majority in the Senate, and it lost the all-important race for Mayor of Mexico
City. In the July 2000 elections, these tendencies continued.
President. On July 2, 2000, Vicente Fox of the Alliance for Change, representing
the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the environment-oriented Green
Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM) was elected President with 42.52% of the vote,

marking the first election of a president from an opposition party in 71 years. He defeated
Francisco Labastida of the centrist PRI who came in second with 36.10% of the vote, and
Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the leftist Alliance for Mexico, representing the Party of the
Democratic Revolution (PRD) and four minor leftist parties, who came in third with

16.64% of the vote.

Chamber of Deputies. In the election for the 500-seat Chamber, final results
showed 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
Labor Party (PT), and 9 for other leftist parties).
Senate of the Republic. In the election for the 128-seat Senate, final results
showed 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, has 60 senators, the largest delegation,
while the PRD/Alliance for Mexico, with 18.85% of the vote, has only 17 senators. The
PRI has the largest delegation because of the intricacies of the senate election process.1
Results of the July 2003 Chamber of Deputies Election
Mexico held nation-wide congressional elections on July 6, 2003, although only the
Chamber of Deputies was renewed. Electors voted for 500 deputies who serve three-year
terms, with 300 deputies elected by plurality in single-member districts, and 200 deputies
elected by proportional representation in five 40-member districts. The Senate is elected
for six-year terms under a complicated formula, and there are no staggered terms.
Official results demonstrate that President Fox’s conservative National Action Party
(PAN) performed rather poorly, while the other major parties made significant advances.
Public opinion polls and exit polls showed that much of the population was either
apathetic or was critical of the fact that the President had failed to deliver his promised
economic improvements, and final results showed that 58% of the eligible voters
abstained from voting, a higher percentage than the last three presidential elections.
Results reported by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) showed that the previous
long-ruling PRI captured the lead position in the Chamber of Deputies race with 38.05%
of the valid vote (including all the votes won by the Alliance for All, the coalition
between the PRI and the PVEM in eleven states). The PRI won 160 of the 300 single
member districts and it won 64 of the proportional representation seats, with the result
that it increased its delegation in the 500-seat Chamber from 208 deputies to 224 deputies
(44.8% of all deputies). This gives it a very strong position in the Chamber since it will
be entitled to elect the President of the Chamber, it is only 27 votes shy of a majority, and
it is in a good position to make alliances with the PVEM, with which it ran in a coalition
in 11 states, and with the other leftist parties with which it has been associated to some

1 For more details, including background on the major parties, see CRS Report RS20611,
Mexico’s Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections of July 2, 2000, by K. Larry Storrs.

extent in the past.2 Demonstrating that it has a truly national presence, the PRI won seats
in the direct elections in all but 4 of the 32 states in the country. This victory is generally
viewed as strengthening the presidential prospects for PRI President Roberto Madrazo,
who is credited with holding the party together against various divisive tendencies.
Table 1. Number of Deputies by Party in
Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies
2003224 (44.8%)153 (30.6%)95 (19%)17 (3.4%)6 (1.2%)5 (1%)
2000208 (41.6%)205 (41%)54 (10.8%)17 (3.4%)8 (1.6%) 3 (0.6%)
President Fox’s PAN came in second with 31.88% of the valid vote, but because of
the intricacies of the election its delegation in the Chamber will decline from 205 deputies
to 153 (30.6% of all deputies). The PAN won only 82 of the 300 single member districts,
just over half as many as the PRI won, and it obtained 71 proportional representation
seats. The PAN won direct vote seats in 22 states, but failed to secure victories in 10
states, nearly a third of the total. The PAN will be going into the 2006 presidential race
with a weak legislative base, and with recognition that Fox himself did not emerge from
the mainstream of the party. While much jockeying will occur in the next few years,
Santiago Creel, Fox’s Minister of the important Government Ministry, and Francisco
Barrios, Fox’s former anti-corruption czar and new leader of the PAN delegation in the
Chamber, are often mentioned as possible presidential candidates in the 2006 contest.
The PRD came in third with 18.23% of the valid vote, but because it was not in
coalition (as it was in 2000) its delegation will increase significantly, from 54 to 95 (19%
of all deputies). The PRD won 55 deputies in single member districts, and it won 40
deputies through proportional representation. It elected deputies in single member
districts in only 8 states, and failed to win seats in 24 states, three fourths of the total. As
a result of the local victory in the stronghold of Mexico City (see below), the popular
Mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is being viewed as an attractive and promising
candidate, but the national results for the PRD suggest the difficulty of moving from a
local victory to a national victory.
The PVEM, which was in alliance with the PRI in eleven states, came in a distant
fourth with 4.15% of the valid vote on its own, and presumably a similar portion of the
14.02% won by the Alliance for All, with the result that its congressional delegation will
have 17 deputies (3.4% of all deputies), the same number as it had in the previous
legislature. The PVEM won 3 deputies in single member districts, and it won 14 deputies
through proportional representation.
The PT came in fifth with 2.48% of the valid vote, giving it a delegation of 6
deputies, all won through proportional representation, while the Convergence party came

2 Results are from the website of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) [],
including the official results and Press Release 066, July 13, 2003; and a graphic display on the
“New Chamber of Deputies” on the website of Mexican daily Reforma at
[ ht t p: / / www.r e f or ma .c om/ na c i ona l ]

in sixth with 2.34% of the valid vote, giving it 5 deputies, all won through proportional
representation. A number of mostly leftist minor parties — Party of Nationalist Society
(PSN), Social Alliance Party (PAS), Mexico Possible, Mexican Liberal Party (PLM), and
Citizens’ Force — received less than two percent of the national votes, and accordingly
failed to gain representation in the new Chamber of Deputies, and failed to maintain their
registry as a political party.
In the past, many of President Fox’s programs have been blocked by an opposition-
dominated Congress, and many observers worry that he could become a lame duck
president and it could become even more difficult with the strengthened opposition in
Congress to obtain approval of major legislation, including a tax and fiscal reform and a
proposed energy reform that would permit greater private participation in the hydrocarbon
and electricity sectors. Shortly after the announcement of the preliminary results,
President Fox called for cooperation among the parties for the good of the country since
the electorate had again chosen to deny a majority to any party or coalition, and since the
announcement of the final results he has been meeting with major party leaders.
Results of the July 2003 Local Elections
State and local elections were held on the same date in ten states, including the
Mexico City Federal District. While some states elected representatives for the state
legislatures and local officials, governorships were in contention in the northern states of
Sonora and Nuevo Leon; the central states of San Luis Potosi, Querétaro, and Colima;
and the state of Campeche in the Yucatan Peninsula. In these elections, the PRI retained
power in Sonora, Campeche, and Colima, and captured the important industrial state of
Nuevo Leon from the PAN. The PAN retained power in Querétaro and captured San Luis
Potosi from the PRI, and it is contesting before the Federal Electoral Tribunal, the results
in Sonora and Campeche.
The PRD consolidated its hold in the Mexico City Federal District by winning
leadership of 13 of the 16 delegations or boroughs of the city, and by winning 37 of the
40 seats in the direct elections for the local legislative assembly, with the PAN winning
the other three. Even with the PAN winning 14 seats through proportional representation,
the PRI winning 6, the PVEM winning 5, and the Mexico Possible Party winning one, the
PRD held 56% control of the 66-seat assembly. This victory in the all-important capital
city is seen as strengthening the stature of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the popular
Chief of Government (or Mayor) of Mexico City and the presumed PRD presidential
candidate in 2006, although the PRD’s weak results in the national contest suggest the
difficulty of replicating the local results on a national level.
In other state legislature and municipal leadership contests, the PRI generally fared
better in Campeche, Sonora, and Nuevo Leon, while the PAN generally fared better in
Guanajuato, Jalisco, Querétaro, and San Luis Potosi, with Morelos and Colima being split
to some extent, mostly between the PRI and the PAN.

Source: Map Resources. Adapted by CRS.