María del Carmen Nava Polina and Jorge Yáñez López
Prepared for delivery at The International Research Workshop, organized by the Center For New Institutional Social Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. May 28 – June 1, 2003.
Based on a data collection of 84 years of legislative activity of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, we argue that the increase of the political plurality in the integration of the legislatures, has been a crucial element that influences the amendment and the approval of legislative bills, as well as the way the members of the Lower Chamber participate throughout the process of the presentation of initiatives. A series of institutional reforms like the creation of an official political party, the prohibition of the immediate re-election of legislators, the successive reforms in the formulas to choose popular representatives and the enhancement of electoral competition, produced changes in the integration of the political representation. From all theses changes we identify different historical patterns of behavior in Chamber of Deputies during the 20th Century.
The empirical study of the Legislative Branch in Mexico is incipient. Mexican and International Scholars do not have access to a primary source of information (or a complete database) on the introduction of bills to analyze the behavior of the deputies and their relation with other actors and powers. The findings and conclusions of this paper are the product of more than eight years of research to compile in a single database the unique official source of bills introduced in the Chamber of Deputies during the period 1917-2000. Different statistical tools have been used to construct and propose some explanatory guidelines of the work that has been accomplished in a crucial institutional setting like the Chamber of Deputies.
The present research seeks to explain how the increase in the plurality in the lower Chamber has modified substantially four different indicators of legislative activity. The first indicator is related to the presentation of initiatives on behalf of all the deputies; The
second, looks at the participation that the opposition deputies have had in the presentation of the initiatives signed by all the members of the lower chamber; The third, deals with the effect on the probability of approval of a bill; and the fourth is an indicator
that was purposely constructed to measure how the plurality impinges on the probability that the initiatives that are discussed in the floor will be modified or amended by the deputies.
Towards the end of the paper we propose a five fold tipology based on the behavior and degree of plurality exhibited by the members in the lower chamber during the period 1917-2000. We show that the changes in the behavior of the legislators in the Mexican
chambers of deputies are closely related to the transformation in the political party system, the introduction of the rule of non consecutive re-election, and the modification of the formulas to elect the representatives in the lower chamber. Finally, we
demonstrate that the Congress in Mexico, from time to time, has had periods of high relevance and independence vis a vis the Executive authority; and that the Mexican presidencialismo was not always as dominant as many authors have characterized the
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