Custom «The Impact of Electoral Laws on Partysystems» Essay Paper Sample

The Impact of Electoral Laws on Partysystems

In this report, we will analyze the electoral system and the party system in Mexico and Iran. There are some similarities between the general mode of how current political system in both countries was formed, as one state-related party used to win most of the elections both in Iran and Mexico. Iran is different from Mexico because the Shah used to be the sole ruler of the country, and no parties were allowed before 1957. In Mexico, the development path was less radical. After careful consideration of the electoral and party systems in both countries, it can be firmly stated that Mexico and Iran alike have way to go before becoming true democracies.

Mexico for many years differed from other Latin American nations. It combined authoritarian stability with economic growth and social change. The close ties between the governing party - Partido Revolucionario Internacional (PRI) - and the government were reinforced by large government participation in the economy. This is no longer the case. The economic crisis of December 1994 to the present not only reduced the government's participation in the economy, it also weakened the PRI, thereby making room for the expansion of other political parties and nongovernmental organizations. (Kesselman et al 2004) These developments were influenced by changes in the international environment and the transformation of Mexican society.

PRI hegemony owed much to the party's revolutionary heritage as the party built by the victorious revolutionaries and as the party that brought land reform to the campesinos, labor rights to the working class, and economic development to Mexico as a whole. PRI hegemony was also due to its corporatist structure, which channeled the electoral and other political participation of Mexico's peasantry and unionized workers, and to a vast clientelistic network through which the ruling elite materially rewarded those ambitious politicians who sought social mobility through politics and those social groups the same politicians claimed to represent. The PRI's monopoly on the elected executive positions at the federal, state, and local levels gave PRI leaders access to the governmental resources that made clientelism easy, particularly in a state with an extensive bureaucracy and a tendency toward intervention in the economy. Opposition parties' failure to gain any executive positions made them unable to challenge the PRI electorally because they had nothing with which to reward their supporters. (Kesselman et al 2004)

The 1994 elections revealed two aspects of the evolving party system in Mexico. On the one hand, the 1994 election marks one more advance in the competitive character of the Mexican electoral system. Mexico's parties of opposition have shown greater capacity to contest elections than ever before. This contestation has spread to most parts of the country so that in few places does the PRI face no real challenge. Mexican voters now feel more free to cast ballots against the PRI; moreover, the electoral system contains more measures to insure that thoe votes are properly counted. It remains true that the playing field is not level, that the PRI has advantages associated with incumbency and with a mass media that overwhelmingly favors it, but Zedillo has shown willingness thus far to play fair in state-level electoral contests. (Kesselman et al 2004) That bodes well for democratization in Mexico.

On the other hand, a deeper look indicates an increasing regionalization of partisanship in Mexico and suggests that Mexico is bifurcating. That electoral bifurcation reflects growing divisions between northern and western Mexico, a society increasingly integrated with the United States and likely to benefit from NAFTA, and southern Mexico, a society not prepared for that integration and not attracted to it. While Mexico may appear to have a three-party system, it may be more appropriate to call it two separate two-party systems. The PRI and the PAN face off in northern and western Mexico and in the Yucatan; the PRD and the PRI struggle in the south. (Kesselman et al 2004) Because both the PRI and the PAN favor integration and economic liberalization generally, they can cooperate legislatively even while they compete electorally.

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In Iran, it can be stated that party system as such was first introduced in 1957, when the Shah allowed for the creation of two state-sponsored parties: the Melliyun (National Party, in late 1963 re-named Iran-e Novin-Party); and the Mardom (People's Party). (Kesselman et al 2004) They were supposed to stand for different political views, but both actually represented the official ideology. When in 1960 Kennedy's government revised US foreign policies, the external pressure to introduce political reforms increased. The Shah appointed the liberal Ali Amini as Prime Minister, and National Front politicians were re-allowed to appear in public and to stand as independent candidates for elections. (Kesselman et al 2004)

The reforms, however, turned to be a complete failure. The referendum campaign led to a national uprising against the Shah's regime, directed by the Shiite clergy under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. The suppression of the upheavals caused several hundreds—maybe thousands—of casualties, and Khomeini was forced into exile. (Kesselman et al 2004) Since 1963 domestic politics have been characterized by the authoritarian rule of the Shah. Parliament was regularly elected but had no power at all. In 1975 the existing parties were dissolved and replaced by a single party called Rastakhiz (Resurgence). All loyal citizens were supposed to become members of Rastakhiz, yet the party never actually acted as a real mobilizing force, nor, of course, did it help to integrate the growing political opposition, either liberal, communist, or Islamic. (Kesselman et al 2004)

In early 1978 supporters of exiled Ayatollah Khomeini launched a new campaign, which became a popular revolution at the end of the year. Out of tactical considerations, a broad spectrum of liberal and leftist opposition parties adopted Khomeini's demmand for an Islamic Republic. On 11 February 1979 the last Shah-appointed government collapsed. (Kesselman et al 2004) A Provisional Government took over on orders of Khomeini, but effective power was in the hands of Revolutionary Committees and a secretive Revolutionary Council. The latter also acted as a legislative body until July 1980 and drafted the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which was proclaimed after a popular referendum in March 1979. (Kesselman et al 2004)

The Constitution included a number of elements adopted from Western models, such as an elected Parliament (renamed Islamic Consultative Assembly, ICA) and a President. The latter appointed the Prime Minister, who needed a vote of confidence from the ICA. Throughout his rule, Khomeini strengthened the theocratic aspects of the new order, actually standing above the Constitution and often acting as legislative authority. Leftist and liberal parties that opposed the concentration of powers in the clergy saw their activities hampered already before the 1979 elections, and were later banned one after another. The first elected President Bani Sadr was impeached in June 1981 and forced to flee the country. (Kesselman et al 2004) Elections were suspended in 24 constituencies and 21 elected deputies were disqualified, which left 50 of the 270 seats of the first ICA empty. (Kesselman et al 2004)

The Islamic Republican Party (IRP), founded by the clergy in 1979, remained the only serious electoral contestant from 1981 to 1985, along with independent candidates. By 1987 the IRP was faction-ridden and had outlived its usefulness, so Khomeini ordered its dissolution. From 1988 to 1996 electoral contests took place mainly between the Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC), an informal conservative alliance, its offspring Combatant Clergy of Tehran (CCT), of a leftist leaning, and - since 1992 - technocrats supporting President Rafsanjani.

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The presidential elections of 1997 were the first free contest between clerical conservative hard-liners and a leftist and liberal-reformist coalition then headed by Sayyid Mohammad Khatami. Since Khatami's surprising landslide victory, several new political parties have been legalized. Most important among them is the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), which, despite the disqualification of some of its leading members, won a majority in the 2000 ICA elections - along with other supporters of Khatami. (Kesselman et al 2004)

The analysis above suggests that Mexico and Iran have a lot to do in order to become true democracies. Both countries have long history of state-sponsored parties dominating the political life of the country, and citizens in both countries will need more time to grasp the wide realm of possibilities that is now open to them in terms of electoral choices. It is apparent that one of the most effective moves would be to weaken the state – related parties and allow citizens of both Iran and Mexico to participate in elections at all levels where multiple options would be provided.

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