Shannon O’Neil has a great piece up on the agenda that Mexico’s Congress is considering as it returns to session. As she points out, the first legislative session of the current Congress last fall led to some impressive changes, including a highly-controversial labor law that reduced workers’ power to organize and increased companies’ power over employees. As Shannon asks (and begins to answer),
So what will be on 2013’s agenda? The Pacto por Mexico lays out complete first and second semester schedules that can be found here and here, but the items to watch are fiscal and energy reforms. On the tax side this will mean changes that both increase contributions and better collection. On energy it means reforms that open up the sector in some capacity to foreign involvement, bringing in the needed technology, expertise, and investment to make sure oil and gas exploration and production grows. Changes in telecommunications—to increase competition, strengthen regulation, and boost investment—are also vital, as this sector is both more expensive and less efficient than those of many other emerging economies, including Brazil, South Korea, and China. As important are judicial and political reforms to foster greater transparency and accountability more broadly.
How successful the Peña Nieto administration is in 2013 will determine not only the legacy of his six year term, but also in no small way Mexico’s future. The president and his team need to take advantage of the political capital and parties’ consensus before midterm politics emerge (which will occur in 2015 ). The next ten months will decide whether the optimism is warranted.
I think this latter point is raises a particularly salient, if implicit (and usually overlooked), issue. While media reports tend to focus on the presidency in Mexico, Mexican politics in the 21st century have changed in such a way that the legislature plays no small part in the transformation of Mexican society. While the PRI governments of the latter half of the 20th century were able to get their agendas rubber-stamped with a quiescent Congress, the breaking of PRI’s presidential hegemony in 2000 and the growing strength of parties like the PRD and PAN make the legislature an increasingly important institution both in the ways Mexican presidents increasingly have to work with it (rather than relying on rubber-stamps of approval for presidential policies) in an attempt to build coalitions, and in the ability to shape policy itself. Again, the labor reform of last year has already provided a powerful example of the ways in which the legislature’s role is increasingly worth paying attention to as the second session of the current congress begins.