Mexico is divided into thirty-one states and a Federal District that encompasses Mexico City and its immediate environs. Each state has its own constitution, modeled on the national charter, with the right to legislate and levy taxes other than interstate customs duties. Following the federal organization at the national level, state (and local) governments also have executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Despite its federal structure, Mexico's political system is highly centralized. State governments depend on Mexico City for much of their revenue, which they, in turn, funnel to municipal governments in a clientelist fashion. Mexican presidents have historically played a prominent role in selecting PRI gubernatorial candidates and in settling state-level electoral disputes. President Salinas was especially assertive in this regard, having removed or prevented the seating of eight PRI governors widely believed to have been fraudulently elected.
The state executive branch is headed by a governor, who is directly elected by simple majority vote for a six-year term, and, like the president, may not be reelected. State legislatures are unicameral, consisting of a single Chamber of Deputies that meets in two ordinary sessions per year, with extended periods and extraordinary sessions when needed. Deputies serve three-year terms and may not be immediately reelected. Legislative bills may be introduced by the deputies, the state governor, the state Superior Court of Justice, or by a municipality within a given state. Replicating the pattern of executive dominance at the national level, most policy-making authority at the state level has historically resided in the governor. The state judiciary is headed by a Superior Court of Justice. Justices of the Superior Courts of Justice are appointed by governors with approval of the state legislatures. The superior court magistrates, in turn, appoint all lower state court judges.
The Federal District, which encompasses Mexico City and its southern suburbs, has traditionally fallen under the supervision of the president, who appoints a mayor (regente
). In addition to performing his municipal duties, the mayor also holds cabinet rank as head of the Department of the Federal District. In September 1993, the congress approved an electoral reform package that introduced the indirect election of the mayor of the Federal District.
The Federal District has local courts and a Representative Assembly, whose members are elected by proportional representation. The assembly, historically a local advisory body with no real legislative power, is scheduled to elect Federal District mayors beginning in late 1996.
The basic unit of Mexican government is the municipality (municipio
), more than 2,000 of which were legally in existence in 1996. Municipal governments are responsible for a variety of public services, including water and sewerage; street lighting; cleaning and maintenance; public safety and traffic; supervision of slaughterhouses; and the maintenance of parks, gardens, and cemeteries. Municipalities are also free to assist state and federal governments in the provision of elementary education, emergency fire and medical services, environmental protection, and the maintenance of historical landmarks.
Municipal governments, headed by a mayor or municipal president (regente
) and a municipal council (ayuntamiento
), are popularly elected for three-year terms. Article 115 of the 1917 constitution proclaims the autonomy of local governments according to the principle of the free municipality (municipio libre
). Although they are authorized to collect property taxes and user fees, municipalities have historically lacked the means to do so, relying mainly on transfers from higher levels of government for approximately 80 percent of their revenues. Responding to concerns that excessive centralization of political power and financial resources would jeopardize long-term popular support for the PRI, President de la Madrid advocated reforming intergovernmental relations to allow greater municipal autonomy. De la Madrid's municipal reform culminated in the 1984 amendments to Article 115, which expanded municipalities' authority to raise revenue and formulate budgets. The Salinas administration's National Solidarity Program (Programa Nacional de Solidaridad--Pronasol) provided another source of revenue for municipal governments (see Social Spending, ch. 2). By bypassing state bureaucracies and channeling federal funds directly to municipalities and community organizations, Pronasol undermined state governments' control over municipal finances, albeit by promoting municipalities' dependence on the federal government.
Data as of June 1996