Comparative Politics Of The French And Mexican Governments Political Science 113 Prof. Laremont Ronald Summers The political systems of today’s world vary tremendously as you span the world. Each of these systems has gone through an evolution based on mistakes of the past and the needs of a stable and equal government. Most nations throughout the world observe political means through either Unitary or Federal legislation. The Federal government of Mexico and the unitary government of France are perfect examples of the differences and similarities of unicameral and bicameral legislature. When looking at the political systems we must first understand the ideologies behind it.
The main ideology that has help to define the French political system is that of bicameral legislation. In bicameral legislation the power of making laws is vested into two chambers, both, which must approve a bill before it officially becomes a law. In French politics these two chambers are part of the parliament. One chamber of parliament is the National assembly, which is elected directly by the people, and the second chamber is the senate, in which the Electoral College indirectly elected the members. A bicameral system can be either unitary or federal.
The French government is unitary which means that laws give virtually all authority to the central government. The central government may delegate duties to cities or other administrative units, but it retains final authority and can retract any tasks it has delegated. The central government in a unitary system is much more powerful than the central government in a federal system. The reason a central government is more powerful in a system is because unitary governments exercise one level of government unlike that of a federal government which relies on both the central and local governments. France’s political system consist of both a president and a prime minister.
The president is elected for a seven-year term by direct popular vote. The presidential powers preside over the Council of Ministers, the High Council of the Judiciary, and as the commander of the armed forces. The president selects the prime minister and appoints cabinet ministers. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible only to the National Assembly. The prime minister power is minute when compared to that of the president.
The president can also elect a new prime minister if he feels the current is not doing his/her job. The French Parliament has two chambers, with supreme legislative authority abided in the National Assembly. The 321 members of the senate serve 9-year terms and are indirectly elected by an electoral college. The Senate has the right to examine and render opinions on legislation. The senate also examines policies initiated by the National Assembly and has the power to delay the passage of legislation. If the two chambers disagree on a bill the final decision rests with the National Assembly.
The National Assembly gives 5-year terms to its 577 deputies, since they are chosen directly by the people. The national assembly also has the power to censure the president and prime minister. Members of National Assembly are elected through single member district plurality, while notables elect the senate through indirect elections. France enjoys both the benefits of a single member district polarity and proportional representation. Single member district elections are used when choosing the president and the national assembly since they are both chosen by popular vote. Proportional representation takes effect for the senate based on the percentage of vote’s a party receives as a whole through the notables. Both of these systems are extremely efficient in that the serve there purpose. Just as described in France, Mexico has a bicameral government. The Mexican political system has a lot in common with that of the United States.
Mexico has both central and local government, which are divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. However, in Mexico, the executive branch dominates the other branches to such an extent that the president effectively controls the country’s political system. Given the dominance of the executive over the legislative and judicial branches, interest groups and lobbyists have not developed in Mexico. Interests groups who wish to influence policy do so mostly through the executive branch or seeking contacts with agency heads and cabinet figures. The president is elected by direct popular vote every six years and cannot be reelected. Presidents acquire vast authority because they control all selection of candidates in their party for elective office at the national level.
The executive also can exercise great influence because many Mexicans have come to expect a strong president and public elections give the president much power since the people chose him. The president is the chief policy maker, and the executive branch handles 90 % of Mexico’s legislation. The president chooses members of his cabinet, which results in them being the most influential members of the executive branch. No president has ever selected a member of an opposition party as a cabinet official until President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Len took office in December 1994. The cabinet is also divided into smaller groups such as an economic or national security cabinet, which make policy recommendations to the president or respond to his policy initiatives.
The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate make up Mexico’s bicameral legislative body. There are 500-members in the Chamber of Deputies that are elected for three-year terms, 300 of them from single-member districts, and 200 on the basis of proportional representation. The Senate has 128-members and is elected every six years. Beginning this year, all members of the Senate will be on the same election cycle. Geographic areas are represented by half of the senate (64 members), two of which are elected from each state and the Distrito Federal, and the other 64 members are elected based of the number of votes received for each party.
Unfortunately, even though deputies and senators may be reelected, they cannot be reelected in consecutive terms. The chamber of deputies has the power to impose taxes, pass laws, and verify elections. The senate can also ratify treaties and sometimes approves presidential appointments. Both legislative bodies have little power, and all bills submitted to the president are approved. This is due most likely a result of the historical prominence of presidential power. Just like the legislative branch, the judiciary has played a very minor role in Mexico’s political process due to the president’s vast power.
As with the United States the highest court is the supreme court, which is appointed by the president with the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. But unlike the U.S., the Supreme Court rarely shapes laws through judicial precedent. By not having the power to use judicial precedence, the Mexican supreme court is very limited in it’s ability to change or modify the country’s laws, which leaves the court with little influence over important policy matters. The decisions of the Supreme Court usually follow the policies of the president and the executive branch. Once again as a result of reforms initiated by President Zedillo to strengthen the court’s powers in 1995, the court can now review newly passed legislation within a short time period, but only if 1/3 of the members of the national legislature request such an appraisal.
Since the Mexican government is federal the organization of local government is similar to that of the United States. Mexico has 31 states and the Distrito Federal. An elected governor, who serves a six-year term, administers each state. The Distrito Federal was governed by a presidential appointed cabinet figure until 1997, when residents of the Distrito Federal were given the power to elect their own representative. Political parties play somewhat of an important role in Mexican parties. The most dominating party is that of the PRI, but since the 1960s minority parties have been encouraged by electoral reforms, which allocated some legislative seats to parties on the basis of proportional representation. The 3 main parties are the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). PAN was founded in 1939 and favors rapid political reform, decreased government spending on social services, and privatizing state-owned industries. PRD was founded in 1989 and dominates the center left.
Like the PAN, PRD favors rapid political reform, but has less common interest with the PRI. The PRI has enjoyed unbalanced denomination during a 60-year reign of one-party rule. But the PAN and PRD have gained 240 seats in the Chamber of Deputies since their creation leading to increase in power for the minority parties. As you see Mexico shares the benefits that the US has with a Federal system. The Central and local government has given Mexicans people a stronger voice in some cases, but remains silenced buy the dominance of the PRI. This unbalanced Party system is somewhat discouraging, but since the creation of PAN and PRD and the implements of proportional representation, the balance has been slowing but effectively began to equal out.
As for the 3 branches of government in Mexico’s federal system we see that the executive branch holds extreme power over both the judicial and legislative branches. Not to say that the executive branch holds absolute power but it holds absolute power in the sense that it passively controls all government functions. These unbalanced branches may lead to problems in the future, but as of now only time will tell. As you see Mexico is a great example of how a federal can government operates within the ideology of bicameral legislation. Both Mexico and France have bicameral systems that work well for their countries.
When we compare the two we see that we cannot come to a valid conclusion on the basis of which one is better because of the different situations within each country. Mexico enjoys the benefits of a federal government. The federal government allows Mexico to have both a central and local government to provide a prosperous country for the people. Yes, the president enjoys a vast amount of government power when compared to the legislative and judicial branches, but France shares the same problems within their unitary system. Both also share the mix of single member districts and proportional representation as the means of electing public official.
If I was to choose the government that I felt was doing a better job, I would most definitely chose Mexico. Reason being that Mexico has two levels of governments, which results in the people of the country being better represented by the local government. Not to say that the government of France is inefficient, but I feel the representation of the people is very important in any society. I also must say I do not totally agree with all that the Mexican government abides by. The extreme governmental power of the president is ludicrous, but no government is perfect.
They can only work towards it. From the government policies that I have presented and the intense studies that I have done, I conclude that neither the federal or unitary system have a comparable advantage. Only when the government of a nation exercises and uses the power vested within that political ideology efficiently, will one be able to say that a federal system is better then a unitary system. Until each system is used through absolute efficiency, we have no basis to compare the two unless each system achieves maximum benefits for the people. Political Issues.