Key Challenges

Populist vs. non-
populist cleavage
The elections on 1 July 2018 led to considerable changes in the political landscape. The clear winner was Andrés Manuel López Obrador of MORENA with 53% of the popular vote. Cleavages in the country do not follow a left-right scheme, but rather one of populism versus non-populism, or López Obrador versus the “others.” In the 2021 midterm elections, this political cleavage was further cemented with slight losses for MORENA.
Security situation is massive challenge
The government’s main challenges have not changed, but some have to be added. First, the security situation remains a central challenge. The presence of violent crime, human rights violations and rampant corruption have not been altered by President López Obrador. The rule of law continues to be weakened by an ineffective judicial system. Violence and crime, corruption, and impunity continue to undermine the rule of law. In corruption-related crimes, impunity reaches 98% and for homicides impunity reaches 97%. Corruption is widespread in Mexican politics, the judiciary and the police, and although the government has made anti-corruption efforts a central issue, little has changed. The disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college is indicative, and remains unresolved. Although President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has established a truth commission, the commission has made little progress.
High poverty and inequality rates
Second, ongoing socioeconomic problems persist, and poverty and inequality rates are high. President López Obrador has this issue made the central issue of his government, but the COVID-19 pandemic increased socioeconomic problems. Mexico was seriously hit by the pandemic, with one of the world’s highest death rates, producing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. In December 2021, 76% of Mexicans said they did not approve of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Populist approach has undermined democracy
Additionally, the populist, anti-institutionalist approach by President López Obrador has undermined democracy. His efforts to concentrate power in the presidency have weakened checks and balances, horizontal accountability and autonomous state institutions. President López Obrador’s authoritarian ambitions have been limited largely by the weakness of the state. The state is not able to fulfill core functions, and public bureaucracies are often underfunded, understaffed and unprofessional, hence effective governance is severely limited.
Continued presidential
Despite all of these problems and the government’s poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic, President López Obrador remains quite popular. With an approval rate of 65% in November 2021, he had little reason to fear the recall referendum scheduled for April 2022.
Guarding against democratic erosion
Opposition forces, the international community, autonomous bodies and civil society groups have to work together to guard against further democratic erosion. On a political level, opposition parties have already built alliances for the 2021 midterm elections to stop MORENA’s success. Results have demonstrated the polarization in Mexico. While MORENA and its supporting coalition failed to gain a supermajority, the government still has a simple majority in Congress, and controls 17 out of 32 states along with a considerable number of municipalities.
Plagued by poor-
country problems
The government of President López Obrador is facing several serious challenges simultaneously. Mexico, a country whose GDP is among the top 20 in the world, is still affected by issues that normally plague the globe’s poorest war-torn countries, and concerns about further democratic erosion have to be taken very seriously.

Party Polarization

Three blocs
dominate politics
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).
Alliances not
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.
First unified majority
since 2000
Following the 2018 elections, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the first unified majority government since democratization in 2000. In the midterm elections in 2021, the governing coalition lost its supermajority, which is needed to change or amend the constitution, but was able to keep a simple majority.
Centrist could be
coalition partner
The three dominant party blocs today 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.
Polarization has increased during the term of President López Obrador, because MORENA regards itself as a game-change in Mexican politics. One example is the national electoral institute INE’s refusal to register Mexico Libre, a new party created by former president Felipe Calderón and his wife, Margarita Zavala. Zavala claimed that the government pressured INE to make this decision in order to avoid competition. However, as long as the government has a majority, cross-party cooperation will be limited. Opposition parties have been insulting, ridiculing and condemning President López Obrador as corrupt for most of his first three years in office. Observers speak of a “politics of confrontation” in Mexico. (Score: 6)
Greene, K. (2018). Mexico’s Party System Under Stress. Journal of Democracy 29, 4, October: 31-42.
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