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Commentary: Mexico: Democracy Without Citizenship?
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Mexico’s federal elections in 2000 represent an important milestone in the country’s history of political uncertainty. For the first time since 1929, the traditional governing party PRI lost hold of the presidency and thereby brought Mexico’s authoritarian system one step closer in its quest for a long overdue democratic transition. However, these reforms in the electoral arena by themselves do not amount to the culmination of this long and gradual process (Lawson, 2000: 274). First, this essay will demonstrate that the quality of a country’s democracy is inextricably dependent on the extent to which active citizenship is exercised. It will then show that Mexico’s political and neoliberal economic reforms over the last decades have been associated with a substantial decline in civic engagement and political contestation thus undermining the democratic experience. The material hardships of the majority of the Mexican population, the systematic exclusion of indigenous people, and the structural disadvantages of women have only been partially challenged with social struggles and remain an obstacle to the development of a democratic political culture. This political culture, as well as a vibrant civil society, are needed in Mexico for reaching a more efficacious democratic threshold.