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Cablegate: Mexico: President Calderonqs Bold

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241035
2009-12-21 22:33:00
09MEXICO3596
Embassy Mexico
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 003596

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR RESTREPO; DEPT FOR WHA
DAS JACOBSON, MEX DIRECTOR LEE, AND D STAFF CUE.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR MASS ECON ETRD MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO: PRESIDENT CALDERONQS BOLD
POLITICAL INITIATIVE

1. (SBU) Summary: President Calderon's proposal for amending the
Mexican Constitution with a far-reaching political initiative would
have far reaching consequences for implementing badly needed reform.
In addition to allowing for direct reelection of Senators, Deputies
and local officials, the proposal would significantly reduce the
size of the Mexican legislature and give unforeseen new
opportunities for the Supreme Court and for independent candidates
in a political system hobbled by the grip of its three major
political parties. The initiative, prefaced in the President's
November 22 administration mid-term speech and launched on the last
day before the Congress begins its long holiday break, will only
prosper if Calderon can convince an electorate preoccupied with
economic worries that this is not just another scrum between
political insiders. The fight over passage will be a tough one and
the maneuvering could complicate matters for the ascendant
Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) front-runner for 2012 by
stimulating a call for badly needed political change in Mexico. End
Summary

---------------------------
The Devil is in the Details
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Calderon put forth his political initiative in an early
morning address from the Presidential palace on December 15. The
proposal includes the following elements:

--Empowering local legislatures and the Mexico City Assembly to
allow direct election of Mayors, local legislators and Municipal
officials and their reelection for up to 12 years;

--Providing for the reelection of federal and local legislators for
up to 12 years;

--Reducing the 128 seat senate by the 32 seats that are elected via
the proportional system; and the 500 seat Congress by 100 seats to
400, with 160 voted via the proportional system;

--Increasing the minimum vote requirement for the registration of
parties from two to four percent;

--Providing for a citizen initiative representative that would have
the power to propose initiatives of law before Congress;

--Allowing independent candidacies for all elected positions;

--Instituting a majority wins, two round electoral process for
Presidential elections;

--Allowing the Supreme Court to initiate projects of law that could
influence debate on legal issues related to its function such as
judicial reform (e.g., amparo system), and unconstitutional
actions;

--Allowing the executive branch to present two priority initiatives
at the start of a new Congressional session that would require
debate and action before the end of the session: if the legislature
fails to act the bill would automatically become law (in the case of
a constitutional issue it would be submitted to the people in a
popular referendum);

--Allowing the executive branch to present comments related to laws
and the budget as approved by the congress;

3. (SBU) Calderon had picked up the perennial theme of his National
Action Party (PAN) on the need for political reform in his speech on
the third anniversary of his election (November 22) with general
references that failed to excite much enthusiasm either among the
electorate or among the chattering class. The new details in the
final proposal, however, will likely attract significant attention
from both pundits and the people, though the government will be
hard-pressed to overcome the perception that while Mexican voters
are focused on bread and butter issues such as economic recession,
the discredited political class engages in an inside debate on the
rules of its game.

--------------
Political Tack
--------------

MEXICO 00003596 002 OF 002

4. (SBU) The initiative could help Calderon take back some of the
initiative after an ineffective series of political actions over the
last several months. By including some important new elements and
proposing it on the eve of Congress' long holiday break, he prompts
a debate among the intellectual elite on the need for change in
Mexico, and provides his administration considerable latitude in
establishing the parameters of the discussion. Well known
center-left political analyst Carlos Heredia, agreed that the
proposal went farther than expected and did not discount the
possibility that it could garner enough political support for
eventual passage if the government is able to make the initiative
real to normal people. He predicted it would resonate and likely
Qtake up considerable amount of political space in the coming
months.Q Heredia credited Calderon with an astute political move,
which could attract support from political commentators and think
tanks and likely put the opposition PRI in a difficult position of
having to defend the extent of its internal reform.

---------------------------------
Lukewarm Reaction from Opposition
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) In fact, initial public commentary has been lukewarm from
the PRI, and downright critical from some quarters of the Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD). PRD President Jesus Ortega has termed
the initiative incomplete and warned about narco- criminals taking
over local government absent better control of electoral financing
and reform of television monopolies. Ortega and other PRD leaders
have, however, recognized the need for political reform and left
themselves an opening to tack towards support if the initiative gets
legs. While the PRI's coordinator in the lower house, Francisco
Rojas, was initially unenthusiastic, characterizing the initiative
as, Qclearly not the most important priority facing the government,
heavyweight Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones was more positive
in comments to the Ambassador, noting his support for reform that
would increase accountability and predictability in Mexico's
political process. Beltrones supports the provisions on reelection
and decreasing the size of Congress, but only if combined with other
elements -- such as a new requirement for Congressional confirmation
of the President's cabinet -- that would make the proposal more
balanced.

------------------
Hurdles to Passage
------------------

6. (SBU) Calderon has sent the proposal for initial consideration to
the Senate, where the PAN remains, at least technically, in control.
Action has been referred to three separate Committees for action:
Constitutional Issues, State Reform, and Legislative Studies. The
committees will debate the proposal and then vote on it before
referring it to the Chamber of the Deputies. Given the need to
amend the Constitution, the proposal must receive two-thirds of
those present in both Chambers, with a quorum requirement of fifty
percent plus one. Once approved in the legislature, the proposal
must be ratified by at least 17 of the 32 State legislatures
(including the Federal District of Mexico City).

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Calderon is clearly aiming to take back the political
initiative, divert focus from early 2010 tax increases and the state
of the economy, and improve the party's chances in next year's ten
gubernatorial races. While his proposal did not receive major
attention from the press after his mid-term speech, Secretary of
Governance Gomez Mont focused much of his attention during his
recent lunch with Assistant Secretary Valenzuela on the political
reform initiative. A reform of this nature would be game-changing
as it would open up debate on a whole host of other reforms
energy, anti-trust, legal and judicial Q that are badly needed if
Mexico is to strengthen its economy, become a more strategic partner
of the U.S. and retain its leadership in the region. End Comment

PASCUAL

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