The Mexican Senate overwhelmingly approved a historic electoral reform bill on December 3, 2013. The bill is expected to be approved by the lower house of the Mexican Congress in the next few days. Some of the main features of the bill are: repealing the current bans on reelection in order to allow federal lawmakers1 and mayors to serve consecutive terms; replacing the Instituto Federal Electoral with the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE), a new, independent electoral oversight commission with broad powers; making the Attorney General’s office independent from the executive branch and requiring that nominees for Attorney General be approved by the Senate; allowing independent candidates to run for office; and limiting the power of the President and governors in elections.
The Senate’s passage of the electoral reform bill is significant for a number of reasons, but especially because it clears the way for the Mexican Congress to focus on energy reform. In August 2013, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto of the current ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), and the center-right Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), each proposed constitutional reforms that would open the energy industry to private investment and participation for the first time in several decades. While the PAN would like to see a more ambitious reform involving a greater degree of liberalization, both Peña Nieto and the PAN are aligned in their belief that the Constitution must be amended and the energy industry opened to private participation and investment.
Late last week, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), Mexico’s leftist party—and opponents of any constitutional changes—pulled out of the Pacto por México, a political pact between the country’s three main political parties to push through a series of reforms. Many commentators suggest that the PRD’s departure from the pact will open the door to a more liberalized approach to energy reform than the approach laid out in Peña Nieto’s August 12, 2013 proposal.
The congressional discussions on the energy reform proposals are expected to commence in the Mexican Senate this Sunday. A vote could follow soon thereafter. To amend the Mexican Constitution (as Peña Nieto and the PAN intend), a bill needs to be passed by two-thirds of the members of each house of the Mexican Congress, as well as a majority of Mexico’s 31 state legislatures.
1 Starting in 2018, members of the lower house would be able to serve a total of four terms and senators would be able to serve a total of two terms, in each case representing a total of 12 years.