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The 2012 presidential and congressional races took place under a different set of rules than in 2006. Although most of the electoral institutions of interest to political scientists (e.g., the translation of votes into seats) remained unchanged, Mexico imposed new campaign finance regulations and new limits on television and radio advertising. This chapter offers a description of and commentary on institutional changes that go to the heart of how modern campaigns are run. In the last three presidential elections, each major party has seen its candidate finish a distant third at some point: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) in 2000; Roberto Madrazo of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in 2006, and Josefina Vásquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) in 2012. And in all of these elections, the frontrunner ’s lead has eroded significantly—enough to turn the tide in 2000 and 2006. These facts indicate how weak the links between Mexican parties and the electorate remain, despite decades of heavy subsidies and institutional protection from competition. With parties unable to anchor themselves firmly in the mass public, campaigns have been key to making Mexican democracy work (Domínguez and Lawson 2004; Domínguez, Lawson, and Moreno 2009; Moreno 2003, 2009). By affecting the legal architecture under which competition for office is conducted , changes in campaign rules can have a great impact on electoral politics. This chapter argues that significant increases in public subsidies to the parties and the adoption of strict controls on campaign advertisements further insulated party leaders from potential challengers, both outside the party establishment and inside their own parties. Ultimately, this outcome tends to constrain 3 The Electoral Institutions Party Subsidies, Campaign Decency, and Entry Barriers ERIC MAGAR 64 Mexico’s Evolving Democracy the choices available to voters and does little to encourage closer linkages between the parties and the electorate. I begin by revisiting the context under which the electoral reform was negotiated and highlighting two key elements of the reform package. The first is the expansion of subsidies to the parties: total transfers including indirect subsidies in election years went up by 20% in the 2009 midterm and by 120% in 2012. As a result of these subsidies, spending per vote in 2012 stood at $13 (compared to $18 per vote in the US presidential election that same year, and less than $2 per vote in France, both countries with several times the per-capita gross domestic product of Mexico). The key datum here is that, comparing 2012 to 2006, approximately a dozen times more campaign advertising was broadcast during an official campaign season that was half as long. Meanwhile, legal voluntary donations to parties were restricted to at most 5% of major party spending, ensuring that party leaders controlled messaging during the campaigns. The second concerns rules on campaign advertisements: Mexican electoral authorities now control who can say what and when on radio and television for campaign purposes. The “who” in this case stands for the registered parties only; the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) distributes time among the parties during the campaign season according to rigid, bureaucratic criteria. The “when” is also strictly enforced; campaigns have become drastically shorter, especially for primaries, and all attempts by candidates to advertise before the official campaign became illegal. Even the “what” is now strictly regulated; the IFE has the authority to verify campaign message content in order to remove attack advertisements from the airwaves. Although court rulings limiting these powers and lax censorship standards by the IFE allowed some “contrast” advertising to seep into the race, what American political actors would regard as freedom of speech remains a matter of regulatory discretion in Mexico. This chapter closes by showing how changes in campaign rules have added new entry barriers to the party system and further raised those already in place. Origins of Reform Electoral reform was the political elite’s response to the 2006 fiasco, when candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador cried foul, refused to concede, and mobilized supporters for weeks in an attempt to force a recount that would legally invalidate the presidential election. Mexico’s main parties embraced the notion that campaigns dominated by the sort of attack advertisements that The Electoral Institutions 65 characterized the 2006 race—caricaturing López Obrador as a dangerous Hugo Chávez copycat or portraying Felipe Calderón’s in-laws as white-collar criminals—lay at the root of political polarization. In their...


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MARC Record
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