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Government, Political Parties

Carlos Salinas, Gortari, National Action Party, national vote, Democratic Revolution

Although Mexico has long had a political system dominated by one party, the PRI, opposition parties have existed for many decades. In the 1960s the existence of these parties was encouraged by electoral reforms which allocated some legislative seats to parties on the basis of their national vote, rather than their ability to win individual legislative districts. The two main opposition parties are the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). In addition, a number of smaller parties have been strong enough to win seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

PAN was founded in 1939 by dissident leaders from the PRI. It occupies the center right of the political spectrum in Mexico, favoring rapid political reform and integrity in government. The party also calls for privatizing state-owned industries and resources and decreasing government spending on social services such as health care.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution was founded by dissident PRI and left-of-center party leaders in 1989. It dominates the center left. The PRD also favors rapid political reform, but cooperates less with the PRI than does PAN. Members of the PRD are often critical of some of the consequences associated with economic policies or trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Some of these consequences include increased foreign control of Mexicoís economy after state-owned industries and resources are sold to foreign investors, and the failure of many Mexican businesses since NAFTA was first enacted in 1994.

In the 1980s, the PRI lost much of its popularity due to economic policies that had led to a steep decline in the standard of living of ordinary Mexicans. In 1987 a number of dissident PRI members were expelled from the party. Their leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano, ran for president in the 1988 elections at the head of a coalition of leftist parties. Cardenas and many international election observers claimed that he won, but the election was marked by widespread fraud on behalf of the PRI candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Salinas was finally declared the winner, but opposition parties gained 240 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, ending the PRIís 60-year reign of unchallengeable one-party rule. Due to the strong showing by Cardenas, as well as subsequent electoral reforms, the size and strength of opposition political parties has grown considerably in recent years.

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