In Mexico, Some Term Limits Are Gone, But Voters Aren’t Sure Their Presidents Should Be Reelected

Term limits date back to the country’s 1857 constitution, and were intended as a way to insure that power rotated among candidates.

By Alexandra HartFebruary 22, 2018 1:42 pm

As of now, about half a million people have registered to vote in July’s  presidential election in Mexican, and there are a few things you should probably know about the way our neighbor to the south conducts its elections.  For one, this year, Mexicans will elect the first cohort of politicians that will be eligible to be reelected.

Kenneth Greene, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in elections outside the U.S., and in Mexican politics, says the end of term limits is changing Mexico.

“There’s a recent reform that allows for mayors, and congressional candidates – in the lower house and the upper house – to be reelected for several consecutive terms. It varies by office,” Greene says. “The ones that come in now in 2018 will be eligible for reelection.”

But the next president of Mexico, who will also be elected in July, will still be limited to one six-year term in office. And apparently, Mexicans don’t seem to want that to change. Greene says about 70 percent of respondents in public opinion polls oppose eliminating presidential term limits.

“The idea of prohibiting reelection of presidents and other executives – governors included – goes all the way back to the country’s 1857 Constitution,” he says. “It was changed temporarily under Porfirio Diaz, who most think of as a dictator, remaining until the 1910 revolution. And then [the reelection ban was] codified into law in 1933.”

When starting the Mexican Revolution in 1910, politician Francisco I. Madero used the slogan “effective suffrage, no reelection.” His idea was that politicians would rotate in power. That’s the main advantage of Mexico’s ban on reelection, Greene says.

“It helps to solve internal conflicts if you have rotation in power,” he says. “And that’s still the case because there are always more ambitious politicians that there are offices to fill.”

On the other hand, limiting a leader to six years might prevent presidents from completing some projects. Also, the fact that the current president doesn’t need to seek popular support for a reelection bid can reduce accountability to the voters.

“There may be not a huge difference between six years and eight years in office,” Greene says. “I haven’t really thought about how much presidents in the U.S. get done in the last two years, relative to the Mexico’s system with six years, but hypothetically is possible they wouldn’t be able to get things done.”

Written by César Lopez-Linares.