May 232012
 

On 1 July 2012 Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new six year president, a new senate and chamber of deputies. At the same time, voters in some states–Jalisco, Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Sonora, San Luis Potosí, Morelos, Federal District, Campeche and Colima– will cast their ballots in elections for state and local officials.

How free and fair are Mexican elections compared to those in other countries?

Before addressing this question, it is useful to acknowledge that elections in Mexico have improved dramatically in the past two decades, largely as a result of progressive reforms including the establishment of a strong and independent National Elections Commission (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE). Prior to the late 1990’s one party, PRI (Partido Revolucionario Insititucional, Institutional Revolutionary Party) dominated most elections at the national, state and local level. Starting in 2000, when an opposition party, PAN (PAN or Partido Acción Nacional, National Action Party), won the presidency, elections in Mexico have been quite competitive. In 2006 a third party, PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, Party of the Democratic Revolution), lost the presidency to PAN by less than 0.6% (35.89% to 35.31%). Since 1994 the winner of the presidency has not garnered 50% of the votes, leading some to argue that Mexico should conduct runoffs between the two highest vote-getters.

CountryScoreCountryScoreCountryScore
Uruguay10.00Peru9.17Turkey7.92
Canada9.58MEXICO8.75Indonesia6.92
Chile9.58Argentina8.75Venezuela5.67
India9.58Israel8.75Nigeria5.67
Brazil9.58South Africa8.75Russia3.92
USA9.17Guatemala7.92China0.00
Colombia9.17

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annually develops a “democracy index” which includes a factor titled “electoral process and pluralism”. Scores on this factor are based on 12 questions concerning the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections open to all groups and all voters as well as the orderly transfer of power to those winning elections. Based on the EIU scores for 2011, countries with the perfect score of ten were Uruguay, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Australia and New Zealand. Mexico is tied with Argentina, Israel and South Africa, trails Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Peru but is much closer to the top than the bottom (see table). Mexico is a point and a quarter below a perfect ten and almost a point ahead of Guatemala, three ahead of Venezuela and almost five ahead of Russia. China is last with a score of zero along with Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, North Korea, and other authoritarian regimes.

It will be interesting to see how the EIU scores Mexico after the 2012 elections.

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