Mexico, 2018

Mexico has its elections for President, Chamber of Deputies, and Senate on 1 July. It has been clear for a while that, barring a big surprise, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as AMLO) will win.

AMLO’s support has risen steadily out of what looked like a tight three-way contest some months ago into a strong lead. When voters responding “no preference” are removed, it even looks likely that AMLO could win a clear majority of votes. Mexico elects its presidency via nationwide plurality, and no Mexican president has earned half the votes since 1994 (at a time when most experts still considered the regime authoritarian, albeit increasingly competitive).

Assuming AMLO wins, it will highlight the competitive three-party nature of the system. When the center-right National Action Party (PAN) won the presidency in 2000, it broke decades of continuous control by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PAN won again in 2006, on less than 37% of the votes in a very tight race, with AMLO close behind (and refusing to acknowledge defeat). The PRI returned to the presidency in 2012, and now AMLO will give the left its chance. (AMLO was with the Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD, but in recent years has set up a new party, MORENA, while the remnant PRD is backing the PAN candidate this time.)

I would be very interested in seeing an analysis of AMLO’s own manifesto (and his party’s, if separate). There is much hand-wringing over his leftist “populism”. However, when he ran in 2006, he staked out a centrist economic platform well to the right of his own party–a clear case of what “presidentialization” does to parties. (See the discussion of the general point, and also the 2006 Mexican campaign, in my book with David Samuels, Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers). Is he doing so this time? I can’t claim to have followed closely enough to know.

As for the Chamber of Deputies, if the pattern of recent Mexican elections holds, the party winning the presidency will win fewer votes for its congressional candidates. That could mean MORENA (and pre-election allies) will not have a majority of seats. On the other hand, as noted above, these previous presidents have not themselves won majorities. Moreover, the electoral system is mixed-member (with the voter having a single vote). It is sometimes erroneously categorized as mixed-member proportional (MMP), but it is actually leans much more to the majoritarian category (MMM). Seats won based on nationwide votes for party are added to single-seat districts won (by plurality).

The allocation is not compensatory, but it is also not strictly parallel. There are caps on allowable over-representation (unlike in a “pure” MMM system). The most important cap is that no party can have a final seat percentage that is more than eight percentage points above its vote percentage. Thus if a party wins under 42% of the votes, it is unable to have a majority of seats. If it gets over 42% it is not guaranteed a majority, but a majority becomes likely, due to the non-compensatory nature of the allocation. This cap kept the PRI from retaining its majority in the midterm election of 1997, and I believe it has been hit in several subsequent elections, as well. This is what I will be watching most closely: Will MORENA (and allies) get a Deputies majority?

The Senate is also elected in a mix of regional and nationwide seats. Each state has three senators, elected by closed list, limited-nominations plurality. The largest list gets two seats and the runner up gets one. Then there are 32 seats elected by nationwide proportional representation (allocated in parallel, not compensatory manner).

These provisions, combined with the regionalization of party support in Mexico, make it difficult for a party (or alliance) to win a majority of the Senate’s 128 seats. AMLO is unlikely to have majorities in both houses, but it is worth noting that the federal budget must clear only the Chamber. There is no Senate veto on the spending side of the budget, although both houses must pass all other types of bills. Thus the left will be in a strong, but not unchecked, position to implement its program for the first time in Mexican democratic history.

Mexican elections 2015

In addition to Turkey, about which we already have an active thread, there also are elections today in Mexico.

The entire Chamber of Deputies is being elected today, along with governors in nine states. Those nine states, plus some others, have elections for their state assemblies.

This is the first midterm election under a president from the Institutional Revolutionary Party since 1997. Each of the preceding has seen the familiar “midterm decline” phenomenon, whereby the president’s party sees its seat share of the legislature reduced in an election near the mid-point of the president’s term. Will this one defy the trend?

An average of polls that I have seen* put the PRI on around a third of the vote, which is approximately what it won in 2012. The National Action Party (PAN) also was polling around the same range as it won in the last election (around 27%). The difference maker could be the left, where the Party of the Democratic Revolution suffered a split: former leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set up a new party, Morena, after the 2012 election. This party will compete with the PRD (and allies) for votes from the left.

The Mexican electoral system is a mixed-member system. Its PR-list component is neither fully compensatory nor fully parallel, but it is somewhat more the latter. That is, a party that wins a lot of the 300 single-seat districts will tend to be over-represented, even after the 200 list seats are allocated.** For instance, in 2012, the alliances of the PRI (33.6% of the vote) and Greens (PVEM, with 6.4%) took 241 seats (48.2%).

Given the disproportionality of the electoral system, it is not out of the question that the PRI (and PVEM ally) could gain seats even if it loses some votes from 2012. In much of the center and south of the country, the PRI’s main competitor is the PRD. With the PRD split, the PRI could pick up districts (which are decided by plurality) that the PRD won last time, even if its votes did not increase.

The caveat is that I have not looked at district-level patterns from 2012, nor have I seen state-level (let alone district-level) polling for this election. So I do not know how plausible this scenario is. But it is something to watch as the results come in later. This is not an mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, so coordination matters. And the left does not appear well coordinated in this election, a factor that should benefit the PRI, the president’s party, more than the PAN.

* Sent by a contact in Mexico.

** The basic feature is that seats are allocated in parallel (i.e. based on nationwide proportional share of the 200 list seats) up to the point at which a party has an over-representation that is more than eight percentage points. Once a party has hit that cap, any remaining list seats are allocated proportionally among parties that have not hit the cap. There is a 2% threshold. Voters have just one vote, so parties must have candidates (their own or an alliance partner’s) in the single-seat districts to collect “list” votes, which are simply aggregations of parties’s candidates’ votes. (It is a bit more complex than this, but these are the main points.)

The PRI’s stability

Aside from 2006, not much change over time. What has changed is the relative ability of one of the other parties to consolidate enough of the anti-PRI vote to win a plurality.

Year, Deps, Pres
1997, 39.1, —
2000, 36.9, 36.1
2003, 40.8, —
2006, 28.2, 22.3
2009, 43.7, —
2012, 38.0, 38.2
(PRI-PVEM from 2003)

That’s a mean of 37.8% (for Deputies).

So the answer to my question before the election–how big will the PRI’s comeback be?–is, not that big. Just a regression to its 15-year mean.

Data are from the IFE website, following the links for respective years and institutions.

How big will the PRI’s comeback win be?

If you are reading this, there is a pretty high probability that you know Mexico has elections today for President, Deputies, and Senators. There seems to be no doubt that the formerly hegemonic PRI, which last ruled Mexico in 2000, will win. The question is, how big?

The presidency is elected by plurality, and so a voting result in the low/mid-40s will be good enough–as it was for Vicente Fox of the PAN in 2000. (The incumbent, Felipe Calderon, also of the PAN, won in 2006 with only around 36%.)

The Chamber of Deputies is elected by MMM. There are 300 single-seat districts elected by plurality, and 200 list seats determined by nationwide proportionality. ((Some sources mention regional districts in the PR tier. That is true, but only on the intra-party dimension: these districts, and the separate list each party presents in each district, matter only in determining which candidates take the list seats a party has won. They do not affect the total balance of seats among parties, which depends on the parties’ nationwide total votes.)) These seats are elected in parallel. That means that a party’s proportional share of the 200 is added to however many district seats it has won, with a partial exception to be addressed below. The votes cast for single-seat candidates are summed up to determine shares for list allocation, as there is no separate list vote.

In the Senate, there are three members elected from each state, and another 32 elected nationwide; again, the nationwide seats are in parallel and without a separate vote. In each state a party presents a (closed) list of two candidates. The plurality earns two, and the second party wins one.

The President and Senators are elected for six-year terms, the Deputies for three years. No one at any level can serve consecutive terms.

Will the incoming PRI president–assuming no huge surprise when the results come in–have a majority in either or both houses?

In the most recent Deputies election, in 2009, the PRI won just short of a majority: 237 seats (47.4%) on only 36.9% of the votes. The PRI was in pre-election (pri-election?) coalition with the Green Party (PVEM), and this combine actually did win a majority: 258 seats on 43.6% of the votes.

The 2009 result shows clearly that the system is MMM (parallel), not not MMP (compensatory) as some sources claim. A near-majority of seats for one party that wins less than 37% of the vote is pretty non-proportional! The one way in which the system is not purely parallel is that it includes caps on over-representation. No party may win more than 60% of the seats, or more consequentially, a seat percentage that is more than eight percentage points greater than its vote percentage.

It seems (though I am not sure) from the 2009 result that this provision is applied to a pre-election coalition, and not to such an alliance’s parties individually (–UPDATE–see Manuel’s comment): the PRI’s own over-representation was more than 10 points. What matters, apparently, is the alliance, which was almost precisely at eight percentage points over-representation. Together in the nominal (plurality) tier the parties won 188 seats (184 PRI, 4 PVEM), which is 62.67% of the districts. (Oh, doesn’t plurality produce big distortions when there are three major national parties!) The parties’ combined votes, as noted, were 43.6%. However, there is a 2% threshold, so what really matters for the proportional-list seats is the “effective vote”: when below-threshold parties’ votes are removed, the two parties had 46.73%. That would earn them around 93 of the 200 list seats. This would get them to 281 seats. So, if my calculations are correct, the cap was triggered in 2009. ((I have said previously that it was not triggered at an election after 1997. Perhaps that was incorrect. The rest of this footnote is geared even more for anoraks than the main entry.

Maybe I am wrong here, rather than in my previous comments about the cap. That is, maybe the cap on over-representation is applied to individual parties, but is triggered only by comparing seat percentages with effective votes. If that is the case, the PRI, alone, did not trigger it, as it had 39.5% of the effective vote, and its total seat percentage won was then less than 8 points greater.

Maybe someone can clarify this arcane point!))

Will the cap be triggered in 2012? If so, will it affect the PRI’s chances of winning a majority? I would think it is likely to get a majority, as unless there is a great deal of ticket-splitting, the PRI should win over 42% of the vote. Winning 42% does not guarantee a majority of seats, but makes it likely. The party would have to win a sufficient number of district seats–about 167–to ensure the majority. However, even a small increase in the votes for the largest party should result in an even greater swing of seats in the PRI’s favor than the very large swing we saw in 2009 (when the PRI alone won 184). On the other hand, winning less than 42% of the vote makes a majority impossible–not counting votes and seats of alliance partners. ((The PRI is again in alliance with the Greens.))

Conclusion on Chamber of Deputies: A majority for the PRI looks likely.

As for the Senate, a majority depends on winning the votes plurality in many states, as well as a large enough share of the total nationwide votes. Given that the PRI currently governs about two thirds of the states, it obviously has the regional spread to pull this off.

Bottom line: a two-house majority for the new PRI president, Enrique Pena Nieto, looks likely, but not a sure thing.

Now, does this mean a restoration of the “old” PRI? Probably not, as the internal lines of authority in the party have changed, probably irrevocably. But that is a topic for another day…

Mexico’s ballot format

Update: it is clear now that I misinterpreted the rule. (In my defense, the linked story presents the matter less than clearly.) See the comments for clarification.

Mexico votes Sunday for president and all members of both chambers of the federal congress.

The Chamber of Deputies election has an interesting ballot format. The Deputies are elected by a Mixed-Member Majoritarian system (with caps–more below–but it is not MMP). Unlike most mixed-member systems, the voter has only one vote. The vote for a candidate in any given single-seat district also counts for the party list; that is, there is no separate list vote.

Candidates are sometimes nominated by pre-electoral coalitions. However, the parties keep their separate ballot identities. A vote is valid even if the voter marks the ballot for two or more parties in coalition. However, such a vote would count only for the candidate, and not for any of the parties’ list. This is an unusual provision, and I am not aware offhand of anything similar elsewhere. (See earlier thread, and comment by Manuel, in which this feature was mentioned.)

Mexico: Calderon calls for legislative reelection

Mexico is one of few* countries to prohibit legislators from serving consecutive terms. This past week, President Felipe Calderon announced that he will propose that legislators be permitted to seek reelection.

Quick reaction #1: good idea, as it would give the 300 members elected from single-seat districts (200 others are elected via closed-list PR) the incentive to actually represent the electorate of their districts, rather than immediately upon election seek to curry favor with whoever may offer them their next job.

Quick reaction #2: good luck passing it. The PRI, which is currently just short of a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, is unlikely to agree to a reform that would restrict the authority of party leaders (who tend to offer members that next job referred to in quick reaction #1). Even if the party wins back the presidency,** we are unlikely to see the degree of centralization and presidentialization of the halcyon days of PRI hegemony. However, in opposition, the PRI has become a “gubernatorialized” party, and the governors presumably would stand to lose much influence if legislators could seek longer tenure in congress.

* One of only two? (Costa Rica is the other one I know of.)

** Conventional wisdom seems to be that the party is a shoo-in for 2012. I am not so sure. That the party can do so well in midterm congressional elections when it is in opposition (such as in July 2009), and in gubernatorial elections (it governs almost two thirds of the states), says less than meets the eye about its prospects of finding a single candidate who can unite the party and appeal broadly enough win the presidency. Much will depend on whether the PAN finds a popular enough candidate to appeal beyond its narrow base and whether the PRD can pull itself together enough to appeal to the more leftist elements of the PRI constituency. (Mexican presidents are elected by nationwide plurality, and Calderon himself won about 36% in 2006 and defeated then-PRD candidate Lopez Obrador by the narrowest of margins.)

Mexico may experience ‘divided government’ after all

Beneath this morning’s Mexico planting, Ed, and later Manuel, have provided preliminary seat counts. If the results hold, the PRI and Greens together may have a majority.

They ran in a partial pre-electoral coalition: joint candidates in 63 districts, but separate lists (and candidates elsewhere).

The coalition apparently has won in 50 districts, which is impressive.

Also noteworthy is that the Mexican Green Party, at 6.5% of the votes in this election, would suddenly find itself among the largest Green parties in the world. I did not see that coming. (I will leave it to others to decide whether a Green alliance with a party like the PRI is anything to celebrate.)

What I am unsure of is the extent to which the PRI and Greens have been cooperating in congress and whether they have anything like a commitment to cooperate in the upcoming congress. If they do, then I would be inclined to put this election into the relatively rare category of those in (pure) presidential systems that produce divided government.