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The Constitutional Citizen President of the United Mexican States (the official title in Spanish is Ciudadano Presidente Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos) is the head of state of Mexicomarker. Under the Constitution, the president is also the head of government and the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces. The current President is Felipe Calderón.

Currently, the office of the President is considered to be revolutionary, in that it is the inheritor of the Mexican Revolution and the powers of office are derived from the Revolutionary Constitution of 1917. Another legacy of the Revolution is its ban on re-election: Mexican Presidents are currently limited to one six-year term. The constitution and the office of the President closely follow the presidential system of government.

Requirements to hold office

Chapter III of the Constitution executive branch of government and sets forth the powers of the president, as well as the qualifications for the office. He is vested with the "supreme executive power of the Union."

To be eligible to run for president, the following requirements must be met:

  • Be a natural-born citizen of Mexico ("mexicano por nacimiento"), with at least one parent who is a natural-born citizen of Mexico.
  • Be a resident of Mexico for at least two decades (20 years).
  • Be 35 years or older at the time of the election.
  • Be a resident of Mexico for the entire year prior to the election.
  • Not be an official of any church or religious denomination.
  • Not be in active military service during the six months prior to the election.
  • Not be a secretary or under-secretary of state, attorney general, or governor of a State at least six months prior to the election.
  • Not having been president already, even in a provisional capacity (see Succession below).


The President of Mexico serves one six-year term, called a sexenio, and is not eligible for re-election.

Presidential elections

Presidential elections have been held every six years since 1934 (the constitution previously provided for a four-year mandate). However, until 1994, most elections were not considered to have met international standards of transparency and cleanliness.

The president is elected by direct, popular, universal suffrage. A simple plurality of all the votes cast in the country decides who becomes president. Former President Vicente Fox was elected with a plurality of 43% of the popular vote, Ernesto Zedillo won 48% of the vote, and his predecessor Carlos Salinas won with a majority of 50%. The current President, Felipe Calderón, won with 36.38% of the votes in the 2006 general election, finishing only 0.56 percent above his nearest rival, López Obrador.

The History of Mexico has not been a peaceful one. After the fall of dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1910 because of the Mexican Revolution, there was no stable government until 1929, when all the revolutionary leaders united in one political party: the National Revolutionary Party, which later changed its name to the Party of the Mexican Revolution, and is now the Institutional Revolutionary Party ( ). From then until 1988, the PRI ruled Mexico as a virtual one-party state. Toward the end of his term, the incumbent president in consultation with party leaders, selected the PRI's candidate in the next election in a procedure known as "the tap of the finger" ( ). Until 1988, the PRI's candidate was virtually assured of election, winning by margins well over 70 percent of the vote--results that were usually obtained by massive electoral fraud. In 1988, however, the PRI ruptured and the dissidents formed the National Democratic Front with rival center-left parties (now the PRD). Discontent with the PRI, and the popularity of the Front's candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas led to worries that PRI candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari would not come close to a majority, and might actually be defeated. While the votes were being counted, the tabulation system mysteriously shut down. The government declared Salinas the winner, leading to stronger than ever allegations of electoral fraud.

The PRI enacted a strict internal discipline and government presence in the country, and electoral fraud became common. After the country regained its peace this pattern of fraud continued, with the opposition losing every election until the later part of the 20th century. The first presidential election broadly considered legitimate was the one held in 1994, when the PRI's Ernesto Zedillo took office, and in his term several reforms were enacted to ensure fairness and transparency in elections. Partly as a consequence of these reforms, the 1997 federal congressional election saw the first opposition Chamber of Deputies ever, and the 2000 elections saw Vicente Fox of a PAN/PVEM alliance become the first opposition candidate to win an election since 1911. This historical defeat was accepted on election night by PRI in the voice of President Zedillo; while this calmed fears of violence, it also fueled questions about the role of the president in the electoral process and to whom the responsibility of conceding defeat should fall in a democratic election.

The role of unions in the new balance of power and future elections is documented in works like historian Enrique Krauze's Analysis of the Corporative System.

Presidential powers

The 1917 Constitution borrowed heavily from the Constitution of the United States, providing for a clear separation of powers while giving the president wider powers than his American counterpart. However, this has only recently become the case in practice.

For the first 71 years after the enactment of the 1917 Constitution, the president exercised nearly absolute control over the country. Much of this power came from the de facto monopoly status of the PRI. As mentioned above, he effectively chose his successor as president by personally nominating the PRI's candidate in the next election. In addition, the unwritten rules of the PRI allowed him to designate party officials and candidates all the way down to the local level. He thus had an important (but not exclusive) influence over the political life of the country (part of his power had to be shared with unions and other groups, but as an individual he had no peers). This, and his constitutional powers, made some political commentators describe the president as a six-year dictator, and to call this system "Imperial Presidency". This power reached its peak around the early 1980s, when a grave economic crisis created discomfort both in the population and inside the party, and the president's power was no longer absolute but still impressive.

An important characteristic of this system is that the new president was chosen by the old one (as a candidate with an assured win) but once he assumed power, the old one lost all power and influence ("no reelection" is a cornerstone of Mexican politics). In fact, tradition called for the incumbent president to fade into the background immediately after the election of his successor. This renewed command helped maintain party discipline and avoided the stagnation associated with a single man holding power for decades, prompting Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa to call Mexico's political system "the perfect dictatorship".

With the democratic reforms of recent years and fairer elections, the president's powers have been limited in fact as well as in name. Vargas Llosa, during the Fox administration, called this new system "The Imperfect Democracy". His current powers and rights include the following:

  • The right to appoint the Attorney General
  • The right to appoint the Attorney General and the Chief of Police of the Federal District
  • The right to appoint the Secretaries of State and all the members of the Mexican Executive Cabinet
  • The right to appoint all Mexican Ambassadors
  • Supreme power over the army, navy, and air force
  • The power to declare war and peace (with prior congressional authorization)
  • The power of negotiating foreign treaties
  • The power to issue decrees
  • The right to nominate Supreme Court justices
  • The power to veto laws (and, after a Supreme Court ruling about the controversial 2004 budget, also the power to veto decrees from Congress).
  • The right to introduce bills in Congress for their consideration.


A decree is a legislative instrument that has an expiration date and that is issued by one of the three branches of government. Congress may issue decrees, and the President may issue decrees as well. However, they have all the power of laws, but cannot be changed except by the power that issued them. Decrees are very limited in their extent. One such decree is the federal budget, which is issued by congress. The president's office may suggest a budget, but at the end of the day, it is congress that decrees how to collect taxes and how to spend them. A Supreme Court ruling on Vicente Fox's veto of the 2004 budget suggests that the President may have the right to veto decrees from Congress.

Since 1997, the Congress has been plural, usually with opposition parties having a majority. Major reforms (tax, energy) have to pass by Congress, and the ruling President usually found his efforts blocked: the PRI's Zedillo by opposing PAN/PRD congressmen, and later the PAN's Fox by the PRI and PRD. The PAN would push the reforms it denied to the PRI and viceversa. This situation, novel in a country where Congress was +90% dominated by the president's party for most of the century, has led to a legal analysis of the president's power. Formerly almost a dictator (because of PRI's party discipline), the current times show the president's power as somewhat limited. In 2004, President Fox threatened to veto the budget approved by Congress, claiming the budget overstepped his authority to lead the country, only to learn no branch of government had the power to veto a decree issued by another branch of government (although a different, non jurisprudence-setting ruling stated he could return the budget with observations).

Oath of Office

Upon taking office, the President raises his/her right arm to shoulder-level and takes the following oath (translated from Spanish):

Presidential Sash and Flag

The Mexican Presidential Sash has the colors of the Mexican flag in three bands of equal width, with green on top, white in the center, and red on the bottom; it also includes the National Seal, in gold thread, to be worn chest-high. During the swearing-in ceremony of a newly elected President, the outgoing President turns in the sash to the current President of Congress, who in turn gives it to the new President after the latter has sworn the oath of office. The sash is the symbol of the Executive Federal Power, and can only be worn by the President.

According to Article 35 of the Law on the National Arms, Flag, and Anthem, the President must wear the sash at the swearing-in ceremony, when he makes his annual State of the Union report to Congress, during the commemoration of the Grito de Dolores on September 15 of each year, and when he receives the diplomatic credentials of accredited foreign ambassadors and ministers. He is also expected to wear it "in those official ceremonies of greatest solemnity." The sash is worn from right shoulder to left hip, and should be worn underneath the coat except during the swearing-in ceremony, when both the out-going and incoming president wear it over their coat (Article 36).

In addition to the Presidential Sash, each president receives a Presidential Flag; this flag includes the words Estados Unidos Mexicanos in golden letters and the national coat of arms also in gold.

Presidential residence

The President's official residence and main workplace is Los Pinos located inside the Bosque de Chapultepecmarker (Chapultepec Park). The President has the right to use this residence for the six-year term of office.

The National Palacemarker, a building facing the Mexico Citymarker Zócalomarker, is officially the seat of the Executive Power, but is used only for ceremonies or national holidays like Independence Day or Revolution Day. Some areas of the historic building are open to the public, and others hold some government offices.

The President also has the use of the Chapultepec Castlemarker, formerly an Imperial palace of the Second Mexican Empire, and afterwards the official residence of Mexican Presidents until the Presidency of Lazaro Cardenas.

Succession

Article 84 of the Mexican Constitution states that "in case of absolute absence of a President" the following should happen:

  • If Congress is not in session, then the Permanent Commission elects a Provisional President (Presidente Provisional), and then calls Congress to an extraordinary session, at which point the process continues as below.
  • If the absence (death, impeachment, etc.) should occur in the first two years of the term, Congress (if in session, or after being called to extraordinary session by the Permanent Commission) must elect, by a majority of votes in a secret ballot with a quorum of at least two-thirds of its members, an Interim President (Presidente Interino). Congress must also call for elections in no less than 14 months and no more than 18 months after the absence of the President occurs; the person who wins those elections then will be President for the remainder of the original six-year presidential term.
  • If the absence should occur in the last four years of the term, Congress (if in session, or after being called to extraordinary session by the Permanent Commission) will select a Substitute President (Presidente Substituto) by a majority of votes in a secret ballot as above. The Substitute President will be President of the United Mexican States until the end of the original six-year presidential term, at which point regular elections are held.


No person who has already served as President, whether elected, Provisional, Interim, or Substitute, can be designated as Provisional, Interim, or Substitute President.

Former presidents

Former presidents of Mexico continue to carry the title "President" until death but are rarely referred by it; they are commonly called ex-Presidents. They are also given protection by the Estado Mayor Presidencial. Former presidents are also given a lifelong pension, which they can refuse, as in case of Ernesto Zedillo.

Contrary to what happens in many other countries, former presidents of Mexico do not continue to be important national figures once out of office, and usually lead a discreet life. This is partly because they do not want to interfere with the government of the new president and partly because they may not have a good public image. This tradition can be traced back to the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas; after his policies were criticized publicly by former president Calles, Cárdenas had Calles escorted out of the country by military police. Calles had personally selected Cárdenas, and had exerted powerful influence over his previous successors. Cárdenas himself remained silent on the policies of his successor, establishing a tradition that former presidents should not interfere with their successors.

For example, Ernesto Zedillo holds important offices in the United Nations and in the private sector, but outside of Mexico. It is speculated he lives in a self-imposed exile to avoid the hatred of some of his fellow members of the PRI for having acknowledged the PRI's defeat in the 2000 presidential election. Carlos Salinas also lived in a self-imposed exile in Irelandmarker, but returned to Mexico. He campaigned intensely to have his brother, Raúl Salinas, freed after he was jailed in the early days of Zedillo's term, accused of drug trafficking and planning the assassination of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. Carlos Salinas also wrote a book on neo-liberal Mexico, secured a position with the Dow Jones Company in the United States, and worked as a professor at several prestigious universities in that country.

Three other surviving former presidents, Luis Echeverría, Miguel de la Madrid, and Vicente Fox still live in Mexico. On June 30, 2006, Echeverría was placed under house arrest under charges of genocide for his role as Secretary of the Interior during the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. De la Madrid has served as head of the Fondo de Cultura Económica, a prestigious government publishing house for academic books. Vicente Fox has announced his intention of building a museum, writing a book, and giving lectures. He is currently a widely recognized conferencist, a published author, and serves currently as the Co-President of the Centrist Democrat International.

List of Presidents of Mexico

See: List of Presidents of Mexico


External links



References


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