Re-election with No Information (Open Parliamentary Information Facing Re-election)
María del Carmen Nava Polina
Río de Janeiro, Brasil, 26 de junio de 2019.
In Mexico, the consecutive legislative re-election was resumed after being banned for eighty-one years. In the current context, having an increase in the use of information technologies, resulting in a constitutional and legal framework strengthened in terms of transparency, access to information, available accounting information, administrative responsibility of public servants and fighting against corruption, as well as a growing public demand for the opening of parliaments, it is mandatory to know what type of information on legislatures exists and if it is available on the official websites of each institution, with a view to assessing work of the deputies who would aspire to be re-elected, as well as to observe whether the constitutional precept of reelection implies an institutional strengthening in terms of transparency of information and openness, over time.
The purpose of my research is to reflect the current status of the parliamentary information that is published on websites, if it accomplishes the basic opening characteristics and if these characteristics have any reference of actions or sections of an open parliament. This represents a first cut to the state of legislative transparency at the beginning of the legislative re-election in Mexico, in the 21st century; as part of the upcoming progress on this research agenda, biannual reports will be made in order to reflect the possible changes (whether these are improvements or setbacks) that might result in the parliamentary information, as the possibility of reelection evolves.
I divided this presentation into four sections: the first one includes a brief history of legislative re-election, its effects on the approval of law initiatives in the Chamber of Deputies at the federal level in the 20th century, as well as the institutional framework that is currently in force in areas of transparency and re-election. The second one is about the description of the elements of open parliamentary information, as well as its fulfillment in the thirty-two local congresses in 2018-2019. The third one is about the current status of actions and language in open parliament observed in the portals of local congresses. And finally, in the last section, the conclusions are presenteds.
Any person that seeks to know, balance, and contrast the work made by legislators in a democratic system under reelection, would have the possibility to find the information related to performance, with the faculties and responsibilities that legislators have, as well as with respect to parliamentary functioning. When having the possibility of re-election, having complete legislative and parliamentary information is even more relevant.
I. Re-election in the 20th Century and Institutional Framework
This section presents a summary of the way in which legislative re-election worked in the 20th century, which were some of the effects it had on the approval of laws and reforms. It refers to the parliamentary information that was in force in that century. The main constitutional reforms that establish the current framework in which the local and federal legislative reelection is developed will be presented, as well as the transparency regulations.
The issue of legislative re-election in Mexico has precedents in the 19th century. Following, some data is presented. The re-election is considered in the first constitutional order of 1824 that followed the American model. Later, in the centralist constitutions of 1836 and 1843 the re-election of deputies and senators was also implicit. The Constitution of 1857 contemplated the same regulation, although only for the Chamber of Deputies, since the Legislative Power was single-chambered (the Senate re-emerged in 1874). The immediate legislative re-election was conceived until 1933.
The prohibition of immediate legislative re-election and of municipal presidents was established in Mexico with the constitutional reform of 1933. The initiative came from the National Executive Committee of the National Revolutionary Party (predecessor of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, IRP, which governed at federal level for 70 uninterrupted years in the 20th century).
In addition to these constitutional changes, it would be necessary to observe the rate of legislative re-election that existed in the Chamber of Deputies and if it had implications for the approval of initiatives. According to the historical research we conducted, the re-election rate during the Porfiriato period was very high: between 1876 and 1912 there were 1,374 deputies, of whom 650 were reelected, that is, 47 percent, almost half. In the Senate the situation was very similar: of the 258 senators, 112 were re-elected, that is, 43 percent of the total.
In contrast, between 1917 and 1933 the re-election diminished: of the 2,119 deputies, only 228 were re-elected, that is, just over 10 percent. Although the immediate legislative reelection was prohibited since 1933, there is the so-called “non-consecutive reelection”, which occurs when a legislator occupies the same office with at least one intermediate legislature.
Mexican legislators between 1934 and 1997 were systematically amateurs, since only 14 percent of deputies and 5 percent of senators since 1934 were re-elected.
The institutional elements that we consider to realize a chronological framework of the activity of the camera in the 20th century are: duration of the legislature, existence of the first modern political party that governed for seventy years (we will call it the official party), immediate re-election of legislators, electoral system by which the camera is composed and the degrees of partisan plurality. These stages go with the average values of the approval of initiatives in the plenary session.
As a general tendency we observe that having consecutive reelection, the approval of presidential initiatives is less. However, the institutionalization of the political party system, an essential element that regulates the current Mexican political system, did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century. Therefore, it can not necessarily be inferred that, when establishing the legislative re-election in the 21st century, there is a risk of less approval of presidential initiatives, since Mexico has legislated the last 30 years with a divided government and with few leaps. We must remember that in 1988 the party in the government no longer had the qualified majority in Congress for approval of constitutional reforms.
However, the greater approval of initiatives of deputies with the constitutional existence of re-election shows the possibility that, having greater legislative experience, the tendency to approve the initiatives of legislators, is bigger.
Legislative information of the twentieth century was truly precarious. The only source of reference and consultation until 1997 was the Journal of the Debates; it was the official means that transcribed what happened in the plenary sessions of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic. Until the 1930s, the Journal of the Debates of the lower chamber transcribed the list of nominal votes that were given in the Plenary. Afterwards, there were no longer reported.
It was in the LVII Legislature (1997-2000) that the parliamentary rules were adapted to the plurality of forces that existed, which reflected the proportional partisan composition in the commissions, in the governing bodies. Legislation helped to create an electronic voting system, from which the nominal votes of the legislators are known, after decades of non-existence of information, by a method in which legislators can be identified individually, by parliamentary group and including each of the voting veridcts (except for cases in which voting is done by card, such as designations of appointments previously determined by the assembly).
It was in those years that, as part of the parliamentary improvement process regarding the generation of information documenting the work in the areas, the Parliamentary Gazette was created. In this gazette the announcements to sessions of commissions, of committees, are published, the working reports of the areas, the verdicts, the initiatives of reforms, the communications that were received from other institutions.
The Parliamentary Gazette documents much of the work that is done inside the cameras; there is a Gazette for the lower chamber and another for the upper chamber.
Another factor that was created to make legislative work visible was the Congress Channel. At first the signal on television was private, that is, the sessions were transmitted by cable signal; subsequently the signal was opened. Mainly, the channel began to transmit the plenary sessions and gradually advanced in the coverage of some commission sessions or united commissions, which were, and still are, transmitted through the Internet in the institutional website.
In those years there was not a regulatory framework that made public information transparent, nor was there the figure of autonomous bodies in charge of guaranteeing access to information. The first transparency law in Mexico was created in June 2002.
Thus, for practically the entire 20th century, the federal Legislative Power had scarcely fifteen years of reelection; there was only one source of official information that could be consulted, printed, in the Library of Congress of the Union; it did not have legal frameworks that forced public information to be transparent. Thus, there was neither re-election, nor information, nor transparency; much less was there talk of an open parliament.
If that was observed at the federal level, the local congresses did not have any additional provision for constitutional, legal or information improvement. The wave of legal harmonization in the legislative entities, occurred once the provisions of the Organic Law of the General Congress of the United Mexican States, provided for the provisions that were briefly mentioned, in terms of internal media such as the Parliamentary Gazette.
II. Open Parliament and Transparency
This section of the article identifies if the parliamentary information that exists in the local congresses in Mexico is open and would contribute to: 1) facilitate the knowledge of their activities; and 2) provide assessment elements of legislative work in a re-election context. The initial premise is whether existing open parliamentary information contributes or not to raising the quality of representation. I will explain what the legislative opening implies, with some advances in the country.
“The open Parliament is an idea that came up at the intersection point of two realities: the crisis of political representation and technological development ” refers Enrique Cebrián Zazurca, academic at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, when writing on the amendment to the Regulation of the Courts of Aragón that incorporated, in June 2017, two principles of open parliament: participation and transparency.
Undoubtedly, the growing use of information technologies (ITs) has been a driving factor in the requirement of institutional openness, added to the lack of citizen identification with the legislative representation. Latin America has a long period with crisis of representation and institutional distrust. The results of the citizen consultation conducted by the Latin American Network for Legislative Transparency in 2017 confirm this: the perception is that legislators are disconnected from the needs of people.
In Mexico, 96% of people who responded to the open consultation #SpeakToTheCongress that was held online considered that their congress does not represent them. In this global and regional panorama, I will briefly refer to the origin of the open parliament movement, its main concepts and how it has developed in Mexico as a country.
The Declaration on Parliamentary Transparency is the guide on the requirements of information, communication, dissemination, data format, access to facilities, citizen participation —among other aspects— that legislators must make to fertilize the road of transparency. It was presented worldwide on September 15th, 2012.
Derived from the elements of the Declaration, we could define that the Open Parliament is a public interaction that incorporates, openness, transparency, informs with ethics, memory, opportunity, thoroughness and open data, the representation and the processes derived from the constitutional, legal faculties, regulatory and regulatory aspects of legislators and legislative bodies. This is a definition-synthesis that I present derived from the content of the aforementioned Declaration and from observing the work done by the legislature during my professional career.
Moreover, the open Parliament is a style to represent, to work within the Congress in front of the citizens, with the didactic elements necessary to transmit in citizen language the activities that are carried out, with historical memory, with accessibility, simplicity and with information systematized, complete, aggregated and in formats that allow its accessible and free use.
Open Parliament is a style to represent, to work in front of the citizens, with the necessary didactic elements to transmit the activities that are carried out, with historical memory, with accessibility, simplicity and with systematized information, complete, aggregated and in formats that allow its accessible and free use. Of course, in the context of legislative re-election in Mexico, the existing parliamentary information and the opening actions carried out by local congresses and federal chambers, becomes much more relevant. And just for this reason is that the review of the portals of the 32 local congresses was carried out.
Principles and levels of information
Although the General Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information refers to a set of legislative information that should be on the websites, local congresses do not comply with it, and we will show it later.
The civil society organizations (CSO) of the Alliance for the Open Parliament (whose electronic reference can be consulted here https://www.parlamentoabierto.mx/ which at the time carried out the Diagnoses of the Open Parliament in Mexico, in 2015 and 2017, were Political Edge, Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equity, Founding Center for Analysis and Research, Gesoc, Legislative Impact, Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, Mexican Transparency, Social Tic, Citizen Sound and Legislative Vision; Civic Arena and OPI also participated in the first
The Diagnosis presents in ten principles the basic requirements of open parliament; one of which is parliamentary information. The ten principles are:
1. Right to information
2. Citizen participation and available accounting information
3. Parliamentary information
4. Budget and administrative information
5. Information about legislators and public servants
6. Historic information
7. Open and non-proprietary data
8. Accessibility and dissemination
9. Conflicts of interest
10. Legislate in favor of the Open State (this rephrase is mine, since the principle is specified as open government, instead of open state).
However, the research carried out reflects the results of reviewing 21 types of information that make up Principle Three on Parliamentary Information. According to the methodology of the Diagnosis of Open Parliament in Mexico, it is considered that they comply with the principle of openness if congresses publish and proactively disseminate the greatest amount of information relevant to people, using simple formats, simple search mechanisms and bases. of online data with periodic update, about: analysis, deliberation, voting, parliamentary agenda, reports of issues on committees, governing bodies and plenary sessions as well as reports received from external actors to the legislative institution.
The basic elements of parliamentary information are the following:
1. Legislative functions
2. Legislative process
4. Having at least two accounts on social media
5. Order of the day
6. Plenary activities and commissions on social media
7. Functions of government bodies
8. Members of government bodies
9. List of comissions and comitees
10. Functions of administrative units
11. Structure chart
12. Web search engine (which is limited to the information of the legislative body)
13. Number and period of legislature
14. List of all the inbox documents
15. Updated attendance lists
16. Updated voting lists
17. Commission calls
18. Publish the list of current laws
19. Shorthand versions of comissions
20. Shorthand versions of plenary sessions
21. Journals of the Debates or shorthand versions (available online after 24 h of being executed).
The results of the Diagnosis on this Principle are devastating and not at all pleasing for what we need to address in terms of parliamentary information, to consider reelecting or not a legislator. The average of parliamentary information that for 2018 was observed in Mexico is 59.4 percent.
There are five congresses that have more than 80 percent of parliamentary information: Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato and the Senate.
There are six congresses that have between 70 and 80 percent of parliamentary information: Chamber of Deputies, Campeche, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí and Chiapas. There are five congresses that observe 62 percent of information: Colima, Jalisco, Sonora, Tlaxcala and Veracruz. There are nine that have between 50 and 60 percent: Yucatan, Zacatecas, Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Querétaro, Sinaloa and Tabasco.
There are five congresses that are in the range of 40 to 50 percent: Aguascalientes, BC, BCS, Mexico City and Guerrero. There are four congresses that have less than 33 percent of parliamentary information: State of Mexico, Morelos, Michoacán and Nayarit.
Results by Federal Entity
The reality of each local congress is different. The country has by May 2019, a total of 1,113 local deputies who could be re-elected, or who already exercise their second assignment, once they were reelected in the elections of July 2018. At the time cut of this investigation, Mexico had 91 re-elected local deputies; which represents a rate of 8.2 percent. It should be added that it will be in the year 2021 that will tie the possibility that any legislator -be it local or federal-, and if it complies with what is specified in its respective constitution, aspire to be re-elected, because the times of entry into force of the reforms Constitutional laws were different in federal entities and at the federal level.
The situation regarding parliamentary and open parliamentary information is summarized below, according to what was observed in each federal entity. The synthesis specifies whether there were recent elections, how many legislators make up the congress, whether or not the institutional portal makes reference to an open parliament. A rating is assigned as a user experience based on whether the parliamentary information that exists on the website and the PA is considered, including whether it is understandable and accessible on a scale of zero to ten (where zero is very insufficient and ten is satisfactory). If it exists, good practice elements (or their opposite) are also highlighted. The description in no way intends to be exhaustive, but seeks to list the main features.
III. Features of Legislatures
The periods in which the legislator can be re-elected are three: six, nine and up to twelve years. This except for a period of transition in which some legislatures that by matching local electoral calendar with federal, lasted -by exception-, less or more than three years.
The size of the legislature, number of commissions, partisan integration, changes in each state. The relevance of describing legislative integration implies establishing the partisan starting point in which the congresses are located, in order to locate improvements -or not- in the parliamentary information that they report in institutional web sites; and if the elements and actions of open parliament improve over time, prior to the elections being held in which the legislators currently in office could be reelected.
The average number of deputies and deputies per local Congress is 34; however, fifteen local congresses exceed the average. On the other hand, in 19 local congresses there is divided government, that is to say, the party of the governorship does not count on a legislative majority in the congress to approve by itself any disposition. On the contrary, in 13 local congresses the same party governs.
There are 20 local congresses that have deputies and re-elected deputies, of which 8 have governors of the National Action Party (PAN), 6 government of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and 3 government of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).
MORENA is the party that heads the ownership of the Executive Power from 2018 to 2014 and has the largest caucus in 18 state legislatures. All of the aforementioned did not considered deputies of parties that were in electoral coalition in the elections of July of 2018, and that contribute to conforming legislative majorities. The parties of this coalition were: the Social Encounter Party (PES) that even lost the registration because it did not have the minimum votes established to continue as a political party at a national level, and the Labor Party (PT).
Now, eight states have six years of legislative re-election: Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Colima, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Morelos has the only congress that allows a period of up to nine years to be a legislator. A total of twenty-three congresses have the possibility that their legislators are up to twelve years: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Mexico City, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon , Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Yucatan. This review was made based on the local constitutions of the thirty-two states, with texts updated to July 2018.
In relation to whether there is a divided government after the local elections that took place in July 2018, it was observed that in 15 entities there are: Puebla, State of Mexico, Durango, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sonora, Michoacán, Zacatecas, Hidalgo, Baja California Sur, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tlaxcala, Colima and Yucatan. In Nuevo León, Nayarit, Baja California, Tamaulipas and Coahuila are about to face elections in July 2019.
If we consider the parliamentary information that exists on the website and the OP itself, including if it is understandable and accessible, what rating would we give the site from zero to ten (where zero is insufficient and ten is very sufficient)?
The accountability of deputies and senators is not an automatic result of re-election. Re-election by itself, without adequate secondary legislation and democratic rules of participation, election of candidates in political parties, sanctions, follow-up, public evaluation, dissemination of activities and results, may be a reform that does not generate public benefits . The participation of civil society, specialists, interest groups, organizations and media to monitor and promote a better public performance is essential.
In favor of consecutive reelection, it is argued that it facilitates the professionalization of parliamentarians; strengthens legislative and government control activities; there would be follow-up to the legislative agendas; there would be stable bodies of legislators encouraged to occupy the position again, they would develop their work better and they would attend to their electoral base, since it would be the one who decided, through their vote, that a representative would occupy a seat or seat again.
In contrast, the findings reported in this article, identify that there is much work to be done in the legislative portals to affirm that there is basic parliamentary information to help facilitate knowledge of the daily activities of the deputies, to then have informative elements facilitate the decision to re-elect a legislator or not.
Without parliamentary information, and in a context of majority partisan integration, the litmus test of the contribution to democracy and strengthening of the legislative institution, will be fair in the hands of the party that at least between 2018 and 2021 has the majority force in the congresses. In 2021 it will be assessed if the quality of the representation was contributed in terms of disseminating information, complying with legislative transparency and showing whether they adopt the characteristics of an open parliament in the exercise of congressional functions.
While that happens, in 2019 we have congress websites that are not accessible, do not show historical information; It is not easy to find information, there are no searchers. The legislatures must comply with obligations of transparency, openness and dissemination of information, with a view to being evaluated by the organizations that guarantee transparency.
The parliamentary information that exists in the institutional portals does not comply with the basic elements. Simple language is not used, to facilitate the approach of the population to the legislative activity.
The implementation and implementation of electoral political reforms and transparency will demonstrate the capacity, quality and scope of institutional design of current legislators, as well as the strength of citizen participation to mark the democratic direction and open parliament of their representatives, if they seek to supervise the development in work develops, and value re-election.
There is a notable difference between what existed in Mexico in terms of parliamentary information in the twentieth century compared to what we have today. The legal context of mandatory transparency, accountability, public demand for openness and information technologies warrant not only a permanent updating of information on legislative work, but also a simple use of language to communicate; that there is integrity and a historical archive of the activities, processes and documents that are generated in the parliamentary work.
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