423. The effective exercise of political rights has been one of the issues in Mexico of greatest interest to the IACHR over the years. During a considerable period of time, reports on Mexico received by the Commission mostly had to do with the elections and other rights protected by Article 23 of the American Convention. In the corresponding reports on individual cases, the Commission issued recommendations which to some extent helped give impetus to the important electoral reform process undertaken by the State. In fact, the IACHR attaches importance to the significant advances made by the Mexican State and people towards achieving the objective of a political system based on elections that guarantee competitiveness, pluralism, transparency, and independence in voter registration and supervision of the elections. Of the reforms carried out in the past few years, reference should be made to the new method of registration, the strengthening and independence of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), and the electoral court. As a result of all the reforms, the latest general elections, held in July 1997, were regarded by Mexican observers and the international community as the cleanest and most correct ever held in Mexico.
424. During its visit in loco, the Commission had an opportunity to visit Mexican State institutions in charge of carrying out and of enforcing the regulations governing elections. At the same time, it had an opportunity to interview representatives of different political parties and to obtain their opinion on the advances and the problems still existing in the system. On the basis of this information, the IACHR considers that it is of vital importance to devote a chapter of this report to the issue of political rights in Mexico.
I. LEGAL FRAMEWORK
A. International law
425. Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights declares that political rights are human rights and thus provides for the right of all citizens to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public service of his country. It also provides that the law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.
B. National law
426. The political rights and duties of Mexican citizens are set forth in articles 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
427. Article 35 of the Constitution states that the prerogatives of citizens are:(120) (1) to vote at popular elections; to be voted for, for all offices subject to popular election, and to be appointed to any other employment or commission, if they have the qualifications established by law; and to assemble to discuss the political affairs of the country. Article 36, for its part, establishes that the obligations of citizens of the Republic are:
... to vote in popular elections in the electoral district to which they belong; to serve in the elective offices of the Federation or of the States, which shall in no case be gratuitous; and to serve in municipal council positions where they reside, and to fulfil electoral and jury functions.
II. DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM
428. The electoral body of Mexico is the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), which is headed by a General Council consisting of a President/Councillor, eight electoral councillors, Legislative councillors, representatives of the political parties, and an Executive Secretary.
429. Following the 1996 reforms, it was decided that in order to guarantee the genuine independence of the electoral authority, the President/Councillor and the eight voting members of the General Council of the IFE would be appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Chamber of Deputies present, following their nomination by parliamentary groups. This meant that the Minister of the Interior would no longer preside over the electoral organ. The representatives of the parties and the federal chambers would be authorized only to participate in debates with the right to vote being restricted to the members of the electoral council and the President/Councillor. Lastly, the head of the executive organ of IFE would now be appointed by a two-thirds majority of the General Council, after being nominated by the President.
430. The IFE was created during the 1990 constitutional reform and further restructured in 1993, 1994 and finally in 1996, when it was assigned the State function of organizing elections. IFE has legal personality and its own financial resources. It is also a permanent body. The Institute has authority in electoral matters, functions as a professional body and makes its decisions independently. To this end, the Constitution lays down the guiding principles for the exercise of the electoral functions of the State, which are: certainty, legality, independence, impartiality and objectivity.
431. The national structure of the Institute consists of a number of central organs which are located in the capital of the Republic - the General Council, the Executive Board and the National Directorate - together with various local offices, the respective councils, boards, and committees in each of the 32 states of the Federation. It also includes branch offices in the 300 single-slate electoral districts, in addition to a number of municipal offices. In terms of its operation, the management organs are separate from the executive and technical organs as well as from the oversight organs, which consist mainly of representatives of political parties and are to be found at the national, state and district levels.
432. Prior to the reform, article 41 of the Constitution of the Mexico provided that:
.... the organization of federal elections is a State function exercised by the legislative and executive branches of the Union, with the participation of national political parties and citizens, as provided for by law...
433. This provision has been amended to read as follows:
... the organization of elections is a State function exercised by an autonomous public agency which has its own legal personality and budgetary resources and whose members are drawn from the executive and legislative branches of the Union, national political parties and citizens, in accordance with the provisions of the law. Certainty, legality, independence, impartiality, and objectivity shall be the guiding principles in the exercise of this State function.(121)
434. This means that the IFE now has increased oversight with respect to the prerogatives and financing of political parties; use of the communications media; and independent decision-making by the electoral body. It also has the authority to impose administrative penalties.
435. With regard to strictly administrative matters, note should also be taken of the specialization of these organs in three basic tasks: management, technical operations, and oversight. The latter function is one of the specific responsibilities that the IFE fulfills through the Federal Voters Register.
436. As far as strictly jurisdictional matters are concerned, the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TFE) is an autonomous jurisdictional organ with the powers needed to perform the tasks entrusted to it under the laws in force.
437. Mention should also be made of the existence of a specialized professional and permanent service, which is governed by its own statute and enjoys full independence from the other general administrative bodies. This service performs the technical tasks that are assigned by law to the respective bodies. This, together with citizen participation in management organs through their representatives on the council, inspires greater confidence in the impartiality and objectivity of those responsible for the electoral process.
438. The IACHR notes that the process of electoral reform that has taken place in Mexico in recent years has addressed a number of deficiencies in the law, thereby helping to reduce the high number of complaints received by the Commission in this area.
439. In this connection, reference must be made to some of the cases reported to the Commission involving complaints of the violation of political rights. For example, on June 21, 1990, a complaint was filed with the Commission alleging the violation of various of the articles which had been adopted in the constitutional reform of October 1989 and of various of the rules contained in the Federal Electoral Code.(122) The petitioners stated that these provisions violated the political rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights, insofar as they deprive citizens and political parties of the right to prepare for, organize and monitor elections; grant the Executive Branch the power to control appointments of electoral officials without giving the parties the power to reject appointments or nominations; and establish a system in which the direct consequence of the "governability clause", which is the allocation of congressional seats over and above the percentage of votes received by a party, is to perpetuate the governing party in power.
440. On October 25, 1991, the Commission received a petition that alleged that approximately 600,000 citizens of legal age and having full enjoyment of their civic rights had been prevented from exercising their right to vote. The petition attributed it to the electoral officials of Mexico City and specifically the Local Council of the Federal District of the Federal Register of Voters, an agency regulated by book 4, title 1, of the Federal Code of Electoral Procedures and Institutions.
441. On February 14, 1992, it was reported to the Commission that the political rights of Mexicans to universal and free elections to choose the members of the legislative branch had been taken away. The petition indicated that on August 18, 1991, elections were held to elect all of the deputies and half of the senators that comprise the federal legislative branch of the United Mexican States in the LV Legislature of the Congress of the Union. The complainant alleged that the elections had taken place in violation of the right of universal suffrage and that the right to vote of Mexican citizens had been denied, since election officials had prevented millions of Mexicans from exercising their right to vote (between 3,102,917 and 5,907,107) who were registered on the list of voters and had requested on a timely basis and in the manner prescribed by the law the relevant official authorization to vote.
442. The Commission also received a complaint on June 18, 1992, alleging that the Congress of the state of Guanajuato, meeting as an Electoral College, had decreed in a binding and irrevocable resolution that the December 1991 municipal election of members of the city council of the Municipality of Silao had been null and void. The decree was based on article 251, sections III and V, of the Electoral Code of the state of Guanajuato.
443. The complaint alleged that the said annulment, which was unlawfully decreed, constituted a flagrant violation of the political rights (Article 23 of the American Human Rights Convention) of both the members of the PAN and of Mr. Ramón Quijas Ortega, who was elected in the December 1991 elections.
444. This notwithstanding, as has been mentioned before in this report, significant progress has been made in the area of electoral reforms, particularly in relation to the IFE, which has been viewed in a very positive light by citizens, especially as regards the free, transparent and competitive nature of recent elections which have been held.
The right to stand for election
445. The Constitution of the United Mexican States provides that voting and being elected to office are both an obligation and a right of Mexican citizens. It also sets forth the requirements to be met by citizens who aspire to an office representing the people. These requirements do not include nomination by a political party. However, the regulatory law, in other words, the COFIPE, states in article 175, paragraph 1, that ".... national political parties have the exclusive right to request that candidates be placed on the ballot for election to public office."
446. Under these conditions, any independent candidacy is invalidated from the outset. It has not been possible thus far to find a way to ensure the stability and strengthen the party system in a manner compatible with the constitutional right of citizens to be elected to public office without necessarily having to do so under the auspices of a political party.
447. The COFIPE provides for a system of challenges, but which are available neither to ordinary citizens nor to the very party candidates for the various public offices. The mechanisms provided under the system of challenges include review, appeal, dissent, and reconsideration. Of these, only the remedy of recourse is available to citizens and only when they have not been issued with a voter identification card or when they were unlawfully included in or excluded from the list of voters. A prerequisite for this remedy, which is the only recourse available to citizens, is that the complainant must have already initiated the administrative procedure to request the Office of the Federal Register of Voters to correct the error.
448. It should be pointed out that citizens are prevented from making a legally valid proposal, when the exercise of their right to vote is not consistent with the provisions of article 4, paragraph 2, of the COFIPE. In other words, citizens do not have the means to ensure respect for their right to vote in freedom and in secrecy. Even where an attempt is made to challenge the violation of this rule through the political parties, in accordance with a ruling by the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE)(123) in the case of appeal SC-I RI-43B/91, failure to respect the secrecy of the vote does not constitute grounds for declaring null and void the results of the vote at any given polling station or group of stations.
449. Thus, only political parties may present candidates and appeal the results of elections, with the exception of the remedy of review. Consequently, current Mexican electoral legislation does not permit the citizen to pursue remedies in electoral matters, except for the remedy of review.
450. A series of reforms aimed at improving the electoral system have been carried out in Mexico. Many of the reforms have been the subject of negotiations, discussions and consensus among the main political parties, which gives them greater legitimacy and acceptance.(124) Moreover, these rules are defined by the Constitution with the aim of establishing minimum standards of compliance for all the states of the federation, thereby ensuring that state laws incorporates the advances which the reforms represented.
451. The Mexican electoral system has thus been the focus of a reform effort that has affected its basic institutions of organization, management, and government, to such an extent that the system can now be said to have shifted from party control of the electoral process to a gradual hand-over to citizens themselves.(125) Within a framework of national dialogue, the Commission must acknowledge the progress that is beginning to be manifest towards enacting a new electoral law with regard to the following aspects in particular: autonomy and independence of electoral organs; greater fairness of the conditions under which electoral competition takes place; greater control over the sources of funding of political parties to ensure more fairness, transparency and equity; and guarantees to achieve greater equality of access by political parties to the communications media.
452. It must not be forgotten that traditionally it was the parties that had the right to vote in the management organs of electoral bodies, and that the party in power had an absolute majority in the principal organs which have been responsible for the conduct of the electoral process since 1946. The May 1994 reforms left control of the management organs in the hands of Citizen Councillors, who are independent, uncommitted to political parties and responsible for supervising the overall management of the electoral process. Participation by citizens lends transparency to the process and places responsibility for the organization of elections in the hands of the citizens.(126)
453. The participation of citizens in the IFE's General Council and the increased powers of the Local and District Councils, together with the issuance of voter identification cards, are the most significant features of the new electoral arrangements.(127)
454. The IACHR welcomes the reforms undertaken at the federal level of the Mexican State since they represent a significant advance towards the full enjoyment of political human rights. Nevertheless, the principal problems relating to elections that have arisen in Mexico have been at the level of the states of the Federation. The Commission, therefore, considers diligent oversight necessary to ensure that local official bodies comply with article 115 of the Constitution.(128)
A. Federal Electoral Register and Voters Lists(129)
455. The issue of voters' lists was one of the major subjects of controversy in the 1994 election, since most of the suspicions about electoral fraud centered on the lists. The rasurados - or persons unjustly denied their right to vote - and "ghosts" - or non-existent persons whose names appeared on voters' lists - were the main cause of complaint. A clear sign of the major progress made in this area is the fact that the voters' register used in the 1997 federal elections was not challenged to any extent.
456. Matters relating to the electoral list are regulated by the Constitution, in the Electoral Regulations Law (COFIPE), by the agreements of the General Council of IFE, and by the agreements of the National Oversight Committee and the National Committee for the Supervision and Evaluation of the Federal Electoral Register.
457. Citizens - Mexicans who have attained the age of 18 years and who have an honest means of livelihood - are required to register in the Federal Electoral Registry to enable the establishment of a general list of electors from which the voters' list will be drawn, and to request a voter identification card that bears a photograph of the person. The electoral lists are lists drawn up by the Executive Directorate of the Federal Electoral Registry with the name of the persons included in the Electoral List, grouped by district and by section, who have been issued the voter identification card referred to above.
458. Many of the problems that have arisen in the past in connection with voters lists are no longer occurring or have been resolved. Political parties now have greater access to information and means of verification, which helps to build greater confidence in the overall process. Criticisms are now usually confined to technical matters and the irregularities detected are no longer immediately attributed to fraudulent intent. Officials of the IFE have identified as the main obstacles to the updating of the voters lists the same ones that existed in 1994, namely, population mobility, the large size of the national territory with areas that are difficult to access, concentration and dispersal of the population, socio-economic imbalances and cultural differences.
459. The Commission acknowledges Mexico's great achievement in introducing in 1992 the photo-bearing voter registration card, which required an expenditure of 700 million dollars and which has now become one of the most important instruments for restoring credibility to the system. It is used in many official transactions and is even accepted by banks. There is therefore keen interest on the part of citizens to obtain cards.
460. One of the principal weaknesses of the electoral system was the fact that voting districts were the same as those that had been drawn up in 1977 on the basis of the 1970 census. The outdated information meant that there were significant imbalances in the value of a vote, thereby violating the principle of an equal vote.
461. As a result, the new "districting" was aimed at achieving a better distribution of districts as well as better political representation of citizens. The new boundaries of the 300 electoral districts, of the 40 local districts of the Federal District and of the five multi-slate circumscriptions, which were drawn in accordance with the provisions of Article 53 of the Constitution, were based on the general population census of 1990. This process benefited from the direct participation of the political parties and from oversight by the National Oversight Commission and was unanimously approved on July 31, 1996 with the endorsement of all political forces, which considered it to be much better and fairer than the previous one, notwithstanding certain specific reservations expressed by some political parties.
C. Electoral map
462. With regard to the electoral map, it must be emphasized that the number of polling booths(131) has now been increased, which, in the opinion of the Commission, has had a positive impact on the development of the electoral process. Bringing the voting centers closer to voters' homes is, undoubtedly, an incentive for participation in political life. However, so as not to jeopardize the aims of this new measure, the State must take the necessary steps to make it easier for political organizations to cover all the polling stations with their representatives and thus to monitor the activities of polling booth officials and of all polling day activities as well as any significant negative consequences of the speed with which preliminary results are announced.
D. Pending issues
463. It is also important to note that, despite the progress made, certain issues of great importance have not yet been subject to reform. Among them, it is possible to mention a clear and conclusive definition of electoral offences and measures to effectively guarantee their punishment; measures to punish all forms of coercion or inducement to vote, based on relationship of employment, union membership or enjoyment of a public service or public asset; and guarantees and mechanisms to ensure that public programs are not identified in any way with party programs or used for electoral purposes.
464. If the above-mentioned problems are not promptly corrected, then inequality, lack of transparency, bias, and violation of the freedom to vote and secrecy of the vote may determine the outcome of elections. It is not easy, however, to quantify their impact on the results of elections. Corrective measures are essential, bearing in mind the tendency of citizens who have been affected to bring criminal action over such irregularities. It should also be mentioned that, for whatever reasons, the application of justice in this area appears to be neither reliable, credible nor effective.
E. Progress towards consensus among the parties
465. The IACHR draws attention again to the importance of the consensus achieved among representatives of the major political parties of Mexico to pursue electoral reform. By mid-April 1996, the PRI, PAN, PRD and PT had concluded agreements to the following ends: incorporate TRIFE into the federal judiciary as a specialized agency of that branch; establish monitoring and disciplinary mechanisms of TRIFE; take legal action on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of federal and local electoral laws and action on constitutional disputes, which would be resolved by the Supreme Court of Justice; establish that in order for proceedings to be brought on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of electoral laws, legislative reforms must be undertaken sufficiently in advance to ensure adequate time for preparation of the case; establish that the political rights of citizens will be protected by the remedy provided in the Constitution; allow Mexicans living abroad to vote; establish mechanisms for the constitutional oversight of acts and decisions of federal and local electoral authorities; incorporate personal membership in political parties into the text of article 41; provide for referendums to be held to decide on reforms that affect fundamental political decisions; institute the legal recourse of popular initiatives; provide for the executive and federal branches to be filled by means of free, authentic and periodic elections; establish the constitutional principles on which the organization of the electoral process should be based in a new paragraph of article 40; include in the current ninth paragraph of article 41 a provision that the public body with authority in electoral matters will be independent and autonomous; and finally, provide for title four of the Constitution to cover the regime of responsibilities of the President of the Electoral Council, the Electoral Council members, and the Director-General of IFE.
466. Although it is true that the parties reached agreement on the above-mentioned points, it should be noted that there were also fundamental disagreements that initially prevented consensus from being reached on how to reform the COFIPE. This lack of agreement mainly concerned issues such as campaign financing, the composition of the Chamber of Deputies, access to the electronic communications media, and coalitions.
467. Despite the substantial differences that remained between the major political parties on the subject of electoral reform, the importance of the agreements lies in the fact that these differences did not prevent the reform from leading to constitutional changes and the corresponding amendments to the regulations governing electoral matters as well as to important changes in the electoral field with effect from 1997.
468. The significance of this type of agreement lies in turn in the political will to achieve genuine electoral transparency, which requires honesty, boldness creativity and dialogue among all parties concerned, not just the political parties, but also the government, citizens' groups and Mexicans as a whole. There must be a common agenda, as this is the only way to achieve credibility, transparency and legitimacy.
469. The elections of July 6, 1997 resulted in a loss of majority control by the PRI in the Chamber of Deputies, the victory of PAN candidates in the race for governors of the states of Querétaro and Nuevo León and of PRD candidates for the governorship and legislature of the Federal District. Regardless of the political reasons for these results, the mere fact that they occurred makes it possible to appreciate the importance of electoral reforms aimed at guaranteeing a free, open and competitive system. The Commission acknowledges this and commends the Mexican State on the progress it has made towards electoral reforms, which marks a vitally important contribution to the full enjoyment of political human rights.
IV. CAMPAIGN FINANCING
470. Two of the factors that undoubtedly define a democratic electoral contest are fairness and transparency in the use of financial resources. In this regard, political parties are today one of the hubs around which any democratic system turns. In order to achieve their objectives, political parties need increasingly larger quantities and more costly material and organizational resources.
471. Some significant reforms have been enacted in Mexico, such as a limit on individual contributions, the imposition of ceilings on anonymous donations and the setting of a limit on campaign spending for the first time in the country. According to the COFIPE, under the rules for the allocation of public funds for campaign spending in 1997:
Political parties will be entitled to public financing for their activities, and so this type of financing will take precedence over other types that have existed in the past.
472. Under the new system, the mechanism for financing has been simplified. There is to be a specific allocation for spending on election campaigns. This will lend greater transparency to election budgets, since expenditures for ordinary transactions will be distinguished from campaign expenditures. Under the new system, the PRI received 437,011,758.76 pesos; PAN 259,956,828.81 pesos; PRD 194,531,523.78 pesos; PT 92,994,946.66 pesos; the Cardenista Party and PVEM each received 19,689,901.16 pesos; while the PPS and PDM each received 9,844,950.58 pesos.(132)
473. Meeting in regular session, the IFE General Council approved funding for the regular, ongoing activities of political parties and for their campaign expenses and specific activities in 1997. The PRI received 892,112,657.17 pesos, making it the political party which received the most funding. Behind the PRI were the National Action Party (PAN) with 527,248,111.07 pesos, followed by the PRD with 391,336,040.46 pesos; the PT with 189,937,518.02 pesos; the Cardenista Party with 37,824,779.29 pesos; the PVEM with 37,592,934.02 pesos; the PPS with 17,720,911.04 pesos; and the PDM, with 17,720,911.04 pesos.(133)
474. To the extent that larger amounts of public financing have become available to them, the legal changes have considerably strengthened the public financing of political parties, in a manner consistent with their nature and the importance of their functions. Thanks to the changes, parties can be guaranteed enough funds for their normal activities and for financing their campaigns. The increased financing also gives parties greater independence and helps to ensure greater transparency with regard to the sources of funding.
475. Moreover, these reforms are intended to ensure greater equity in public financing. For example, the new laws provide that 30per cent of the total resources allocated should be distributed equally among all the parties. The remaining 70per cent is allocated in accordance with the percentage of votes received by each party in the most recent elections. The parties not represented in the legislature will receive public financing equivalent to 4per cent of the total.
476. It should not be forgotten, however, that, despite the recent reforms, the system has been characterized thus far by the absence of specific regulations that provide for political parties to be audited; by the absence of mechanisms for determining how much each party spends; and by the fact that current laws do not provide for punishment for the violation of spending limits. The potential for inequality in election campaigning is therefore great in the areas of infrastructure, logistics, payroll, access to and time purchased in the media, public advertising and material resources and, in general, the sum total of resources devoted to events of all types.
477. It is important, however, to highlight the efforts made by the Mexican legislature to regulate the financing of political parties. This regulation was part of the 1986 reforms, which were further modified and brought into line with the reform of May 1994. The process culminated with the rules laid down in the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures, which was promulgated in November 1996. Thus in the space of only ten years, the country has gone from a state of little or no regulation to a system of detailed accounting of both income and expenditures.(134)
478. When the source and use of financing are clear, the basis exists to permit the establishment of a system of control and supervision of both the source and the use of all resources of political parties. The powers of the IFE Control Commission have also been expanded and it is now responsible for monitoring on an ongoing basis the income and expenditures of political parties. Private contributions are limited and anonymous donations prohibited, except for special collections. Moreover, 25 per cent of private contributions to political parties are deductible. The electoral auditing body may order audits of parties to be conducted either by that body itself or by third parties.
479. Financing for the strengthening of political parties, for which provision was made in the 1996 reforms, should also be viewed as a valuable complement to earlier methods of financing. The equal treatment accorded to all political groups must be viewed as a positive factor, since the total amount is distributed annually in equal parts to each political party:
.... each political party is granted 2per cent of the total amount of financing payable to political parties for the financing of their regular, ongoing activities, and an additional and equal amount for campaign spending during elections years. (135)
480. The IACHR believes that this measure promotes the emergence of new political groups and strengthens the smaller ones that are already in existence, which will in turn promote political pluralism.
V. ACCESS TO THE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA
481. Establishing a culture of respect for human rights depends to a great extent on respect for the right to information and to freedom of expression. Two requirements must first be met: there must be a legal framework that guarantees citizens the right to express their ideas and to defend themselves whenever this right is violated; and the communications media must transmit in an objective and balanced manner the various points of view that are expressed in a society.
482. It is important to note that the treatment given to information related to the election process is a determining factor in the development of that process, because the responsible presentation of information facilitates the full and conscious exercise of political rights. This means that adequate guarantees must be provided that not only would there be objectivity and impartiality but also that information relating to party political figures and to candidates for election will not be manipulated.
483. The attainment of this goal must be guided by the aforementioned principles of objectivity and impartiality in the way information is treated as well as by a recognition of the right to freely receive and disseminate information.
484. In order for an election to take place democratically, citizens must receive free and timely information about the election process and about the various candidates participating in it. This is guaranteed by article 6 of the Mexican Constitution, by the Federal Law on Radio and Television and by the Press Law.
485. The partiality of the mass media allows certain political figures to unilaterally present to citizens their political platforms, positions, proposals, and points of view on national issues or events of general interest, in contrast to what other political candidates are able to do. This unequal treatment of candidates in the media prevents the public from having a complete basis on which to decide their vote.
486. This could have an adverse effect on political rights, since the conditions of equality in terms of the timeliness and quality of information is impaired. If newspapers and newscasts do not fulfill their mission of providing full and complete information on the electoral process and on the various candidates participating in it, the right to information is also violated, since the necessary conditions are not being met for ensuring a competitive, open, and transparently democratic contest.(136)
487. It should also be added that both freedom of expression and the right to information are included in the list of human rights that are recognized by the American Convention, the Constitution of the United Mexican States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Mexican State is therefore under the obligation to guarantee that the right to information through the communications media is respected.
488. In the case of Mexico, private media houses dominate over public corporations in the communications sector. However, since the public has an inherent interest in television, the State authorizes its exploitation by granting concessions to the owners of television stations. In this connection, the Mexican Human Rights Academy has noted that:
Mexican legislation is based on the need for mechanisms to monitor the information activity of the electronic media and establishes as guiding principles objectivity, timeliness and truthfulness. However, this does not mean that once these mechanisms are in place, the right of Mexicans to information is being respected.(137)
489. In order to avoid these problems, the Mexican laws which have been in force since November 1996 allow for more time for political campaigns to be conducted in the communications media. It is hoped that the use of public financing will help to improve both the quantity and fairness of the distribution of information. It has thus been decided that preference will be given to time slots for political advertising by parties during general programming hours. In addition to these time slots, a special radio and television program will be aired twice a month and additional time will be provided during political campaigns.
Audiovisual communications media
490. As part of its comprehensive review of the electoral process in Mexico during the elections of May 1995, members of the Civic Alliance prepared a report in which they analyzed the elections coverage by the communications media in the state of Yucatán. By way of example, the conclusions of that report are summarized in the following paragraphs.(138)
491. The report concluded that the two television newscasts studied did not meet the criteria of fairness, in terms of the time devoted to stories and the quality of information, which are required for a credible and democratic electoral contest. The two news programs were partial to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its candidates for elective office, since it provided them with better coverage than the other political parties received.
492. As regards the total time, the "Telenoticias" newscast gave the PRI candidate for governor nearly five times more time than what it allotted to his closest opponent, the candidate for the National Action Party (PAN). However, it is in the sum total of the time allotted to each political party that the differences are most stark. The PRI obtained a total of one hour, one minute and fifty-six seconds, while the PAN was allotted only ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds, and the PRD nine minutes, twenty-six seconds. This shows that the PRI and its candidates had more time to put forward their platform and opinions and to engage in their proselytizing activities. A tendency to favor PRI candidates was also detected in the "Antena 2" newscast. It must be acknowledged, however, that the station conducted studio interviews with the different candidates for public offices so that viewers could actually hear them put forward their ideas and political platform. This type of interview shows a serious effort to give more space to the different candidates.(139)
493. Another aspect of the aforementioned report deals with the characteristics of news stories. One variable that permits a qualitative study of newscasts to be made has to do with how the message is presented: voice and image, quotes and image or only quotes. Using this variable as a measure, "Telenoticias" maintained its bias in favor of PRI candidates, since out of the 42 newscasts transmitted with voice and image, 32 were for that political party, or 76 per cent of the total, while PAN obtained 14 per cent and the PRD the remaining 10 per cent. For its part, "Antena 2" transmitted only three stories with both voice and image, one for the PRI, one for the PRD, and one for Mexico's Green Party (PVEM).(140)
494. Finally, the report deals with the actual time devoted to voice and image coverage.(141) This variable is of great importance to the study of content, since it permits a measurement to be made of the time that newscasts allow candidates in the election to give a live presentation of their views. With regard to candidates for governor, the PRI candidate was given eight minutes, forty-four seconds on "Telenoticias" to present his proposals and opinions, while the PAN candidate received only one minute, thirteen seconds, and the PRD candidate two minutes, five seconds. This tendency to give preference to the PRI and its candidates is also apparent in the manner and times at which the candidates are presented. Potentially, the least distorting way to present a person being interviewed is to present both his voice and image at the same time. When only the picture appears and an announcer narrates what the person said, the possibility of intentionally distorting what was said is greater.
495. Analyses were also made of the 1994 federal elections, which are cited below by way of example. The results presented by the Mexican Human Rights Academy show that during the period from January to April 1994, the PRI (142) was presented on seven occasions in the newscast while PAN, PRD and PPS were each covered only once and the other parties not at all.) (143)
496. This pattern increases exponentially with the candidates for President. The most popular news program in Mexico, "24 Horas",(144) provides an extreme example. The results show that Colosio and Zedillo appeared 23 times each during the show, while Fernandez de Cevallos, Cárdenas, Aguilar Talamantes, Pérez Treviño, Madero and González Torres appeared only once. The disproportion between the PRI candidate and other candidates is 46 to one.
497. This means that a candidate for President was featured in 52 of the 81 broadcasts of "24 Horas" that were monitored, but that 9 out of 10 times, the candidate was from the PRI. The disproportion is even more marked in the case of Ernesto Zedillo, who was named as PRI presidential candidate on March 29. From that date until April 29, the 24 Horas' program was aired on 24 occasions. On 23 of those occasions (or virtually every day), the PRI candidate, Ernesto Zedillo, was featured at some point during the program.
498. It is important to point out that pursuant to article 48 of the COFIPE, this type of monitoring of broadcast samples of time devoted to political party campaigns during programs of the communications media will be carried out regularly by the Radio Broadcasting Commission, with a view to detecting irregularities and reporting them to elections officials and, more specifically, to the General Council. In this way, space will be created in the near future for the analysis and comparison by different research bodies of the role played by the communications media during election campaigns and the influence these media may have on television viewers.
499. At the same time, in order to increase the fairness of future electoral contests and of the financing of such contests and to guarantee a minimum base period for all participants, the time granted to parties will be divided into two parts in accordance with the new legislation: one part will be distributed equally and the other will be allotted according to the representativity of each party. In order to ensure proportionality in maximum access to the media, ceilings are set on the time and expenditure that are allowed to any given party. The IACHR acknowledges the advances achieved toward electoral reform and clarifies that it has not yet received any specific complaints regarding lack of access to the media during the capaigns that preceded the 1997 elections.
500. The IACHR welcomes the progress made towards electoral reform and, in this connection, wishes to underscore the success of the elections held in July 1997, which is proof of an incipient modernization and democracy. Finally, reference should be made to the fact that the Federal Electoral Institute is fully autonomous, and that the Federal Electoral Tribunal is part of the Judicial Branch of the Federation, as these represent substantial steps forward in reforming the system. The strengthening of these institutions will make it possible to repeat the level of certainty and transparency in future elections, to the benefit of the Mexican people.
501. In light of the situation reviewed above, the IACHR makes the following recommendations to the Mexican State:
502. To adopt the necessary measures so that the right to vote and to be elected provides for the most ample and participatory access of candidates to the electoral process, as an element of consolidation for democracy.
503. To monitor compliance by local entities with the provisions of article 115 of the Constitution, which provides that "for their internal government, the States shall adopt the popular, representative, republican form of government, with the free Municipality as the basis of their territorial division and political and administrative organization....".
504. To clearly define electoral crimes and establish mechanisms to guarantee their effective punishment.
505. To adopt the necessary legislation with a view to effectively auditing the finances of political parties.
120. Article 34 of the Mexican Constitution defines citizens of the Republic as men and women who, having the status of Mexicans, likewise meet the following requirements: having reached eighteen years of age and having an honest means of livelihood.
121. Article 41, Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, December 1996.
122. As regards petitions alleging the unconstitutionality of electoral laws, as provided for in the 1996 reform, the Supreme Court of Justice now has the power to hear constitutional disputes involving electoral issues. The political parties will therefore have legal standing to bring before the Supreme Court of Justice cases in which the unconstitutionality of federal or local electoral laws is alleged.
123. Under the 1996 constitutional reform, the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE) was integrated into the Judicial Branch of the Federation. The Senate of the Republic is responsible for appointing judges to the Electoral Tribunal drawing from a list of three candidates put forward by the Supreme Court. The Federal Electoral Tribunal is currently responsible for the final tally of the election results and for declaring the presidential election valid.
124. The first step taken with a view to responding to the demands of civil society were the Seminario del Castillo agreements, in which 60 specific points were proposed for definitive electoral reform. Later, the Working Group for Electoral Reform was constituted with the initial participation of the Ministry of the Interior and the PRI, PAN, PRD and PT political parties. The PAN -- a party which had been absent from the Working Group up until May 20 1996 in protest over a post-election dispute in the Municipality of Huejotzingo, in Puebla.
125. Electoral system is understood to refer to "the system whereby the will of the citizenry is reflected in the organs of government or political representation." Valdés, Leonardo, "Electoral Systems and Parties," Cuadernos de Divulgación de la Cultura Democrática, No. 7, Federal Electoral Institute, Mexico, 1995, p. 9.
126. On January 23, 1997, the IFE Council for the Federal District unanimously approved the list of 840 citizens members of the electoral councils in the 70 districts of the capital, who are to oversee the July 6, 1997 elections. Among these citizen councillors are representatives and directors of social organizations, academics from public and private institutions, women, opinion leaders, prominent persons recognized for their accomplishments and representatives of political parties.
127. A clearly positive element in the design of voting booths is the fact that voting is done in a two-step process, so that the concept of citizen participation which has already been adopted by electoral bodies may also be said to have been adapted to the voting booth. This marks an important advance, since the earlier design provided for rather fewer safeguards.
128. "For their internal government, the States shall adopt the popular, representative, republican form of government, with the free Municipality as the basis of their territorial division and political and administrative organization....."
129. Federal Electoral Institute, Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, United Nations Office for Project Services (OPS) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Study of the electoral system of Mexico, pp. 15 and 61-64.
130. Idem. p. 18, par. 74-75.
131. Voting centers.
132. On January 23, 1997, the IFE General Council approved the amount of public financing for 1997 for each political party, in the total amount of 2,111,493,861.78 pesos. It also approved campaign spending limits of 676,091.52 pesos for elections for deputies based on the principle of relative majority. For the election of the 32 candidates to the Senate based on the principle of proportional representation, the spending limit was set at 176,265,567.95 pesos.
133. "IFE approves subsidies to parties", El Nacional, January 24, 1997.
134. Mexican law provides for various types of traditional financing. The system may be said to be one of mixed financing which provides for both public and private funding, and within each of those categories there are smaller or greater amounts of both direct and indirect financing. Direct financing covers such "ordinary" activities as those conducted outside of the electoral process and the electoral activities themselves.
135. Article 49, Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures.
136. National Network of Civil Human Rights Organizations, Civic Alliance and Center for Labor Studies and Action, Report on the General Status of Human Rights in Mexico, July 17, 1996.
137. Mexican Human Rights Academy, Report on the Mexican Government and the Right to Information, July 16, 1996.
138. Monitoring of television newscasts was done from April 28 to May 4, 1995. Ninety-one stories relating to the electoral process in Yucatán were noted: 73 on the Telenoticias newscast and 18 on the "Antena 2" newscast.
139. Members of the Civic Alliance are: Family Civic Front - the Mexican Academy of Human Rights, First report on the review of elections coverage by the media in state of Yucatan, May 1995.
141. News broadcast in which the voice and picture of the politician to whom the information relates is presented simultaneously.
142. Included in this variable are all party members other than the candidate for President (for example, party leaders, deputies, senators, etc.)
143. Sergio Aguayo Quezada, "Analysis of content by the Mexican Academy of Human Rights in coordination with the Civic Alliance/Observation 1994." The 1994 Federal Elections in Mexico seen through the eyes of twelve media sources (January-August, 1994).
144. "24 Horas": A news program which has been broadcast on Televisa's Channel 2 for many years. It is considered as the most important newscast in the country because of the number of viewers it attracts throughout the country.