Key Challenges

First unified government since democratization
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 (often referred to by his initials, 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.
Broad but fiscally prudent reform strategy
AMLO has reversed the previous government’s controversial educational reforms and has promised to improve the socioeconomic situation. He started several infrastructure projects in the poor south of Mexico, including the so-called Tren Maya rail project, and increased social spending in order to reduce poverty and inequality, and expand access to education. On the other hand, AMLO remained fiscally prudent and follows a course of strict austerity, cutting budgets and public spending in many areas. For example, AMLO has stopped the building of a new airport, which saved the government billions of U.S. dollars. However, this created distrust among entrepreneurs and investors, which has led to a decline in investment. Construction, for example, dropped by more than 10%. After the first year of AMLO’s administration, according to recent data, Mexico is on the verge of recession.
Domestic security remains primary 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 has inherited. In his first year in office, the number of homicides increased to the highest level since the state began keeping systematic records on crime and violence. More than 36,000 homicides were reported. Violence and organized crime substantially restrict press freedoms and political rights. Mexico has one of the highest homicide rates of journalists of any country in the world, surpassed only by Iraq and Syria. In addition, 133 candidates were killed during the 2018 elections, most of these murders are presumed to have been carried out by organized criminal gangs. AMLO’s attempt to pacify the war on drugs through his “hugs instead of bullets” strategy has thus far been a complete failure. As part of an effort to reduce corruption and militarization, AMLO created a new national guard which is, however, led by former military officers.
Truth process for disappeared students
The disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa teacher-training college is indicative and remains unresolved. Although President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has established a truth commission, the commission has made no progress.
Judicial system ineffective
The rule of law continues to be characterized by an ineffective judicial system. Violence and crime, and corruption and impunity continue to undermine the rule of law. In corruption-related crimes, impunity reaches 98% and for homicides impunity reaches 97%.
Corruption widespread; impunity, weak rule of law impede progress
Corruption is widespread in Mexican politics, the judiciary and the police, and the new government has made anti-corruption efforts a central issue. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 138 out of 180 countries in 2018, a significant deterioration in the country’s ranking compared to 2012. The AMLO administration has intensified the government’s fight against corruption. The SNA has been filled with MORENA allies and is currently developing an inclusive consultative process with citizens, institutions, business, academia and subnational governments to improve national anti-corruption policies. Additionally, the government has further integrated corruption into the criminal law system, increasing punishments and detention while awaiting trial. The Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), a government agency focused on detecting and preventing financial crimes, has been the key actor so far in fighting corruption. High-ranking politicians, like the former Pemex CEO or the head of Pemex’s workers’ union, are the target of corruption charges related to the Odebrecht corruption scandal in Latin America. In the context of rampant corruption, impunity and the weak rule of law, the security crisis in Mexico is the current administration’s toughest challenge.
Migrants from south
a political stressor
Furthermore, 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.
Ambitious set of government programs
President López Obrador began an ambitious government program to lead the country in its six-year term in reference to previous development steps in the so-called Fourth Transformation. Even though the components of this fourth transformation have not been explicitly highlighted, the main focus is on combating corruption and organized crime, reducing social inequality and poverty, as well as general reforms of the state apparatus. It remains to be seen whether these initiatives bear fruit.
Violence and corruption are devastating
The new AMLO administration is facing several inordinate challenges simultaneously, of which violence and corruption are primary. 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 main 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, 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).
Cooperation and alliances not uncommon
Although there are substantial ideological differences between the parties (especially on economic issues), cooperation, alliances and coalitions are not uncommon, especially after the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost its hegemonic position following democratization.
Election forges
new alliances
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.
Strongest majority
in two decades
Following the 2018 elections, 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.
Centrist party could
play pivotal role
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.
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