The good news is that the Senate did its part and approved what could be construed as a political reform. The bad is that the bill will not pass in the Chamber of Deputies, basically because with three days remaining in the legislative session, congressmen are hopelessly stuck in partisan haggling.
Thats really too bad, because the intention was beyond reproach. At the end of a lengthy session Wednesday, the Senate approved a package of 15 changes to the Constitution that in essence represents a political reform.
Approval of the package, which now goes to the lower house of Congress for urgent ratification prior to the end of the legislative session Saturday, was hailed as the most important modification since the enactment of the 1857 Constitution.
Among other things, the package includes allowing independent candidacies, the reelection of lawmakers in both chambers of Congress, citizens initiatives, Senate ratification of appointments to regulatory bodies, preferential presidential initiatives, budget modifications, plebiscites, presidential substitution in case of absence, and a governance clause for the Mexico City Legislative Assembly or local congress.
Another major item approved by the Senate has to do with the reelection of mayors, a change that had been long in the making and which was deemed essential to improve local governance. The Senate gave each state congress authority to decide if they approve the reelection of mayors, who currently serve only one three-year term.
Unfortunately, indications are that the lower house lacks consensus to approve the reform in the three days remaining of the current congressional session. Since Congress does not convene until Sept. 1, at which time political campaigns will be in full swing and there will be other pressing issues like next years budget, if the political reform bill does not get approved by Saturday it may go to the back burner for a long time.
Its worth insisting. Congress as a whole is much more concerned with the electoral process than with passing new bills, no matter how important they be. This was demonstrated recently with its rejection of a labor reform that was years in the making.
Thus, it can be said that Mexicos competitiveness, high unemployment and economic recovery in general, among other crucial issues, are not nearly as important to lawmakers as who wins the State of Mexico gubernatorial race this year and the presidency in 2012.
The congressional majoritys PRI, which is largely regarded as a shoo-in for next years presidential contest, is trying to stick to form.
Manlio Fabio Beltrones, Senate majority whip, did his part in getting the political reform approved. Coincidentally, he is a presidential hopeful, and believes he can give State of Mexico Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto, who is the presidential frontrunner, a run for his money. But Peña has his states elections to contend with this year, and his presidential hopes are largely pinned on the outcome of his states race.
Having established that Beltrones and Peña are rivals for the PRI candidacy, its worth noting that the political reform approved by the Senate did not include a Peña proposal on state governance. Thats reason enough for Peñas operators in the lower house, including former Pemex boss Francisco Rojas, to halt the reform bill for whatever real or imagined reason.
On the other hand, some of Peñas proposals are worth analyzing more in depth. For example, he agrees that there is overrepresentation in Congress, meaning there way too many senators and congressmen, and seeks to reduce the numbers. His plan seeks to leave only those who were duly elected, and eliminate political party apportionments, a figure that is truly a disgrace.