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Mexican lawmakers approve watered-down political reforms

April 19, 2012 |  5:17 pm

MEXICO CITY -- Independent candidates and voter-generated initiatives would be allowed on the ballot in Mexico under watered-down reforms given final approval by Congress on Thursday.

Mexico’s lower Chamber of Deputies approved those changes to the nation’s Constitution but left out more sweeping reforms that had been proposed by President Felipe Calderon, including allowing reelection of lawmakers and mayors, who are now limited to one term, and runoff elections when no candidate gets an outright majority.

The reforms, which had already been approved in the Senate, need approval by lawmakers in at least 17 of the 32 states to become law.

The weakened package disappointed members of Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, or PAN, and many others who have called for broader reform of a political system in which accountability is largely a foreign concept. Elected officials hop from one post to another at the pleasure of party leaders, and voters are left with little effective power to punish those who are corrupt or perform poorly.

Gustavo Gonzalez, a PAN federal deputy, dismissed the approved measure as a “partial and mutilated reform.”

Calderon, whose term ends this year, proposed a reform package in 2009 that also called for trimming the size of both houses of Congress, arguing the changes would help make Mexican leaders more accountable to the public. Mexicans often look with disdain on politicians, who are protected from voter backlash by laws that prevent reelection.

A number of the Calderon proposals, including allowing reelection for mayors, city council members and federal lawmakers, originally made it through the Senate. But some of the Calderon proposals were trimmed back in the Chamber of Deputies, which is controlled by the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and later dropped.

The PRI is widely expected to regain power this year with its presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor whose allies in Congress opposed the broader package.


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-- Ken Elllingwood