Mexican political leaders back sweeping electoral reforms Bill would dismantle authoritarian system


MEXICO CITY -- Mexico took a major step toward dismantling its authoritarian political system yesterday, after its president and leaders of its four largest parties agreed to sweeping electoral reforms.

The new measures dilute the Mexican president's near-absolute authority. They loosen the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) grip on power. And they open elections to Mexicans living abroad -- millions of new voters, who, analysts said, are prone to vote against the PRI.

President Ernesto Zedillo enshrined the reforms in a bill that the parties drafted and that he sent to the House of Deputies yesterday. Leaders of the four parties in Congress formally endorsed the measures Thursday. Deputies will debate the legislation in a special session starting next week.

Zedillo said the 17 major changes proposed for Mexico's constitution will give opposition parties more access to campaign financing, to the media and to newly independent tribunals that take decisions in post-election conflicts out of the president's hands. The reforms put the election tribunals in an independent judiciary headed by Mexico's Supreme Court.

Independent political analysts called the package historic. "We are seeing the end of a one-party system," concluded Jose Woldenberg, an independent member of the national election commission. "We all know that there has been a great imbalance between the different parties in Mexico." The agreement came after 18 months of rancorous negotiation among Mexico's major political factions. Next year, key state, local and federal elections will set the stage for Mexico's next presidential vote in 2000. The PRI has controlled the national government, and most state governments, since 1929.

Overhauling the nation's electoral system has been one of the top priorities of Zedillo's presidency and he has promised not to hand-pick his PRI successor, as he was hand-picked. As he signed the bill Thursday night, Zedillo called it "transcendental the result of political reality."

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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