Key Challenges

Transformation in
electoral landscape
The elections on 1 July 2018 led to considerable changes in the political landscape. The PRI candidate for the presidential elections, José Antonio Meade, achieved only a distant third place, while the candidate of the unusual left-right PRD-PAN alliance, Ricardo Anaya, was also defeated. The clear winner was Andrés Manuel López Obrador (nicknamed AMLO) of MORENA with 53% of the popular vote. The new president holds a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the first unified majority government since democratization. Though this majority is several votes shy of the supermajority needed to pass constitutional reforms.
Reversal of predecessor’s policies promised
AMLO has promised to reverse the previous government’s educational reforms and improve the socioeconomic situation. AMLO will likely increase infrastructure and social spending in order to reduce poverty and inequality, and expand access to education. On the other hand, AMLO promised during his presidential campaign to respect the central bank’s autonomy, reduce the deficit, not to raise taxes and remain fiscally prudent. While AMLO’s socioeconomic agenda appears to be a situation of attempting “to square the circle,” increased government spending could be mitigated by curbing corruption.
Disastrous security situation is key challenge
The main challenge for AMLO’s administration will be the deteriorating security situation. Human Rights Watch warned of the “human rights catastrophe” that the new president will inherit. In 2018, the number of homicides increased to the highest level since the state began keeping systematic records on crime and violence. More than 25,000 homicides were reported in 2017, while more than 16,000 were reported in the first six months of 2018, bringing the total number of reported homicides to more than 240,000 since the so-called war on drugs began. In addition, by mid-2018, more than 37,000 people were recorded as having “disappeared,” with more than 2,000 people having disappeared in the first half of 2018. Violence and organized crime substantially restrict press freedoms and political rights.
One of deadliest
countries in world
Mexico is one of the most deadly countries in the world, surpassed only by Iraq and Syria, with regard to the number of journalists murdered. Additionally, 133 candidates were killed during the 2018 elections, most of these murders are presumed to have been carried out by organized criminal gangs.
Truth committee promised on disappearances
The disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students is indicative and remains unresolved. Although international commissions accused the local and regional security apparatus of being complicit, the Peña Nieto administration denied any accusations and refused to cooperate. The incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has promised to establish a truth commission.
Military’s role on domestic security poses risks
Another problem in the realm of security is the military. Since 2006, the military has taken on a prominent role in combating organized crime and drug-trafficking organizations, and currently operates in 27 out of Mexico’s 32 states. The Mexican military forces are notorious for violating human rights and the courts do not provide adequate protection to victims. A new law on internal security, passed in December 2017, legalized military involvement in domestic law enforcement, but lacked any effective counterbalancing provision for transparency, accountability or civilian oversight.
Impunity undermines
rule of law
The rule of law continues to be characterized by an ineffective judicial system. Violence and crime, corruption and impunity undermine the rule of law. In corruption-related crimes impunity reaches 98% and in homicides impunity reaches 97%.
Corruption widespread across sectors
Corruption is widespread in Mexican politics, the judiciary and the police, and anti-corruption efforts have so far failed. At the same time that corruption scandals roiled the political arena, efforts to implement the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA), which had been signed into law by President Nieto in 2016, floundered. Neither the special anti-corruption prosecutor nor the judges for the specialized administrative tribunal have been appointed. At the subnational level, not even half of Mexico’s states have approved the required secondary legislation to implement the SNA. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 135 out of 175 countries in 2017, a significant deterioration since 2012. In the context of rampant corruption, impunity and the weak rule of law, the security crisis in Mexico is the incoming administration’s toughest challenge.
Migrant flows create political pressure
Additionally, there are serious problems related to migrants entering Mexico from Central America, with most seeking entry to the United States. However, these migrants stress not only Mexican politics but especially Mexico’s relationship with the United States.
Violence, corruption
top list of challenges
The new AMLO administration will have to face several inordinate challenges simultaneously, of which violence and corruption are top. Mexico, a country whose GDP is among the top 20 in the world, is affected by issues that normally plague the poorest countries of the world that have been devastated by wars.

Party Polarization

Three dominant
party blocs
At the time of this writing, Mexico has seven recognized political parties. Registration barriers for new parties are high. On the national level, three party blocs have dominated politics in recent years. The main political parties are the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN), the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, and the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). In addition, several smaller or regionally affiliated parties play a modest role, such as the Labor Party (PT) and Mexican Green Ecological Party (PVEM).
Ideological differences,
but alliances possible
Although there are substantial ideological differences between the parties (especially on economic issues), cooperation, alliances and coalitions are not uncommon, especially after PRI lost its hegemonic position following democratization.
For example, the “Pact for Mexico” was initiated by President Peña Nieto (PRI) after he assumed office in 2012. PAN and PRD supported his reform-agenda, and signed the pact in December 2012, which was later also signed by PVEM.
Cross-cutting electoral coalitions formed
For the 2018 elections, PAN and PRD presented a joint candidate, Ricardo Anaya. MORENA formed an alliance with PT and the right-wing evangelical Social Encounter Party (PES), “Juntos Haremos Histora” (“Together we will make History”). PRI and its presidential candidate José Antonio Meade formed a coalition with PVEM and the New Alliance Party (PANAL). These alliances show the possibilities of inter-party cooperation, cross-cutting ideological differences.
New president holds
rare majority
Following the 2018 elections, the incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, holds a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the first unified majority government since democratization in 2000. Though this majority remains several votes shy of the supermajority needed to pass constitutional reforms.
Whether the left-right alliance of PRD and PAN will last is doubtful. The three dominant party blocs are MORENA on the left, PAN on the right and PRI in the center. A centrist PRI could play a pivotal role as a coalition partner between the left and the right in future negotiations. (Score: 6)
Greene, K. (2018). Mexico’s Party System Under Stress. Journal of Democracy 29, 4, October: 31-42.
Back to Top