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Uncovering Mexico’s Political System

By Tom Seest

What Is Mexico’s Government Structure?

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Mexico’s government structure reflects its federal nature, with a president as head of state. Additionally, there are numerous local and state governments throughout Mexico with their own executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The president serves a six-year term and cannot be reelected. He is often referred to as the “six-year monarch.”

What Is Mexico's Government Structure?

What Is Mexico’s Government Structure?

The President: Who Leads Mexico?

Presidents serve as the head of government and are accountable for appointing Secretaries of State, members of the executive Cabinet (Gabinete Legal), and other officials. Furthermore, they supervise other government institutions like the Mexican army and police force.
In Mexico, the President is a powerful figure, but his powers are restricted by the country’s constitution. He can only serve two terms in office and cannot be elected for another until Congress has chosen his successor.
President Lopez Obrador has implemented numerous reforms in recent years despite limitations to his powers. These include direct payments to tens of millions living below the poverty line, raising the minimum wage, and introducing labor reforms.
He has also made efforts to reform the country’s public sector, cutting the number of government employees and placing private businesses under government control. Nonetheless, his reforms have not been without controversy; he has often been accused of corruption.
His popularity has declined in recent years due to a series of scandals, such as an unpaid salary for a convicted drug dealer and murder charges. His political party, MORENA, is weakening, with polls suggesting he may not win another term in office.
The President’s duties are clearly set out in the federal Constitution, which establishes a three-part system of government with the President as its head. He or she appoints and removes Secretaries of State who report directly to him; additionally, he has power over other officials such as Ministers of Defence and Public Security.

The President: Who Leads Mexico?

The President: Who Leads Mexico?

What Powers Does Mexico’s Federal District Hold?

Mexico’s government structure is based on the federal district, consisting of sixteen political districts. The capital city of Mexico City stands atop the remnants of the Aztec empire’s Tenochtitlan.
The Federal District is a major financial hub of Latin America and the 30th largest economy globally by nominal GDP ($1.3 trillion USD), producing 25 percent of the country’s national income. Furthermore, its tourism industry continues to expand exponentially, with an ever-increasing number of tourists visiting each year.
This city is home to numerous museums that showcase Mexican colonial and modern artworks. For example, Museo de Arte Mexicano houses paintings by Mexican masters like Jose Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla.
Mexico City also houses the internationally renowned Museo Tamayo. These museums are among the most beloved in Mexico and showcase a wide range of exhibitions.
Recently, Mexico City has taken steps to improve air quality through regulations aimed at reducing emissions from cars registered there. Furthermore, numerous public works projects have been undertaken with the purpose of increasing the city’s green credentials.
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, boasting a population of 16 million people. This diverse city includes residents and visitors from affluent families to those on low incomes. Since the 1990s, it has become a global hub for commerce and tourism; additionally, Mexico City boasts more museums per capita than any other city globally.

What Powers Does Mexico's Federal District Hold?

What Powers Does Mexico’s Federal District Hold?

What Powers Do Mexico’s State Governments Possess?

State governments in Mexico operate under a federal system and share the same three branches as their national counterpart: executive, legislative, and judicial. The head of each government – known as the governor (governor del Estado) – is directly elected by citizens for an eight-year term with no opportunity for reelection.
Legislative power in states is exercised by the state legislature, which is modeled after Mexico’s federal Congress and composed of both a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. In addition to passing laws, governments may also issue decrees.
Judicial authority lies with each state’s supreme court. These courts are empowered to hear and decide cases involving constitutional, administrative, or criminal law violations.
Though judges generally adhere to the rule of law, their effectiveness can be limited due to judges’ independence from political or economic pressures as well as personal or professional motives when making decisions. Some judges may even experience pressure from political parties, which could affect their judgments or results.
Municipal governments, the smallest autonomous entities in Mexico, are headed by a mayor or municipal president (presidente municipal). They are supported by an assembly of regents and trustees according to their state constitutions. Unlike state governments, which are directly connected with the federal government, municipal governments operate at a local level.
Organized crime has long been a major challenge to government power in Mexico and has had an influence on local elections. For instance, members of an organized drug gang in Guerrero infiltrated local government structures, leading to corruption and violence during many gubernatorial campaigns.

What Powers Do Mexico's State Governments Possess?

What Powers Do Mexico’s State Governments Possess?

Uncovering Mexico’s Municipal Governments

Mexico is a federal republic guided by a 1917 constitution that sets out the government structure and citizens’ rights and obligations. It consists of 31 states plus an autonomous Federal District encompassing Mexico City.
Mexico’s government is highly centralized despite its federal structure. The President serves as the head of government and is directly elected for a six-year term; he also serves as the country’s top diplomat.
Three main political parties are competing for power: the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) on the right, the liberal Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) on the left, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has held power since 1929.
The Mexican government is composed of multiple levels, each with its own executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In addition to the national government, there are 31 state governments and 2,445 municipalities.
Municipalities are autonomous from states; they have a municipal president (presidente municipal) who leads their council (ayuntamiento). Municipalities are accountable for providing public services to their residents.
In Mexico, municipalities are commonly referred to as municipios libres (“free municipalities”), a term that originated during the Mexican Revolution. While they enjoy autonomy in managing their affairs, they are limited in both their powers and the taxes that they can levy.

Uncovering Mexico's Municipal Governments

Uncovering Mexico’s Municipal Governments

What Is Mexico’s Judicial System Like?

In Mexico, the Judiciary System – both federal and state – functions separately from the executive branch. Judges are appointed by the president for life and can only be removed with a guilty verdict after impeachment. It serves to resolve disputes between the government and citizens.
The Mexican judiciary system is founded upon the Civil Law Tradition, which originated in Spain and remains active today. The Constitution, five major codes, and various statutes serve as primary sources for legal norms.
Mexico’s legal system is composed of several layers, beginning with the constitution at the top. Subsequently come legal code, legislation, and finally, regulation and customs.
Mexico’s judicial system is highly efficient but also plagued by issues. Corruption at all levels of government has contributed to a lack of public confidence in both law enforcement and the court system.
Mexico’s prisons are often overcrowded and poorly equipped, leaving many poor and indigenous defendants without legal protections against arbitrary arrest or detention. Furthermore, Mexico is renowned for its shockingly high murder rate and other serious offenses.
The Mexican government has recently implemented a series of reforms to the legal system. While these efforts are well-intended, they could potentially weaken judicial independence from within.

What Is Mexico's Judicial System Like?

What Is Mexico’s Judicial System Like?

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