The role of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in the transition to democracy in Mexico

Acosta, Lidia (2008) The role of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in the transition to democracy in Mexico. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


The use of electoral reforms as active instruments of democratisation has been common in many transitions to democracy. However, in Mexico, electoral laws and institutions played an unusually important role in ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy.
The current study addresses the effects of the Electoral Reforms in the Transition to democracy in Mexico with special reference to the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). It is primarily intended as a contribution to the field of electoral reforms and institutions in processes of political change. The main aim of the thesis is to assess whether electoral reform contributed to or acted to confirm the process of political transition in Mexico and to establish the extent to which the IFE’s role expanded beyond what was initially expected. The study focuses on the political circumstances between the late 1970s, and 2000, when most of the relevant legislation was implemented and the bodies for the supervision of elections were created. The study employs “elite interviews” and a broad range of local sources including law, official documents, party literature and secondary source analysis.
The study begins by examining the context of electoral reform in Mexico, giving a description of the Mexican authoritarian regime. Then, based on interviews as well as secondary sources, the Mexican transition is analysed in a comparative perspective and its peculiarities are highlighted. It concludes that the model of transition followed by Mexico is characterised by a slow and gradual change through five stages based on negotiations centred on electoral issues that avoided ruptures and promoted dialogue to achieve amongst the players consensus about the rules of the game. The study continues with an historical overview of the electoral reforms between 1946 and 1986 establishing the cosmetic nature of the early reforms and the democratising character of the 1977 reform which, by introducing Proportional Representation in Congress, not only opened the party system but also established the ground for political change based on electoral issues. The study goes on to examine the creation of IFE in the 1989-90 reform and its further evolution through the 1990s culminating with its total independence from the government in 1996. This is evaluated in the context of other political and socio-economic changes that had an impact on political groups and generated political forces. It examines the attitudes of the various parties towards the reform and the institution and their methods of negotiation have been analysed using “elite interviewing”, the analysis of party documents and media sources. The analysis concludes that despite the IFE being an effect of a critical political conflict generated by the controversial 1988 elections and being perceived as just another government agency, in time, it accumulated functions and gained additional powers and prestige that allowed it to become a major player in generating consensus among political parties and the government and in ensuring more transparent and fair elections, and thus increasing the competence of political parties.
The final part of the study focuses on the three main areas of activity of IFE including I) the management of the electoral system, II) the development of formulas for the allocation of funds and the regulation of broadcasting time on radio and TV and III) the efforts made to improve participation rates, including political and civic education for adults and children.
It uses official IFE documents and interviews with former and present members of IFE to discuss IFE’s evolution and functioning, and the members’ experiences and expectations for the future in relation to the institution.
It concludes that after being created, the IFE initially focused exclusively on solving electoral fraud. Once IFE had finished resolving problems related to the organisation of elections, it started focusing on other issues such as the regulation of party finances and media access, moving on from a focus on merely “free” elections to “fair” elections. The study shows that the issue of party finances and media access only became relevant once earlier issues related to the organisation of elections had been solved. In relation to the role of the electoral authority in this area, the research shows that IFE contributed to the national debate on party funding, media access, and monitoring.
The monitoring of party expenditure and media coverage by IFE proved to be an important element in reducing corruption and also contributed to the credibility of IFE.
Finally the work of the IFE in the area of civic education is analysed. This study was unable to prove that IFE had been successful in creating a fully democratic political culture that could extend far beyond the electoral arena.
In conclusion, it can be seen that electoral reform both contributed to and acted to confirm the process of political transition and that the role of IFE developed beyond what was initially expected.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Electoral commissions in transition to democracy, Electoral reform in Mexico
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Miller, Prof William
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs M L Acosta
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-425
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:18

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year