Anne McGee

Date of Defense



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. James Butterfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Gunther Hega

Third Advisor

Dr. Michelle Miller-Adams


From the 1930s to the early 1980s, the Mexican political system was one of the "living museums" of Latin American politics (Anderson 1967). Very little change ever occurred and the system was remarkably stable. As a rule, the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, the PRI, always won important elections by a considerable majority. In the presidential election of 1976, the PRI candidate, Jose Lopez Portillo, ran virtually unopposed and won an overwhelming 99% of the popular vote (McDonald & Ruhl 1989). This was typical of the PRI's dominance during this period when opposition groups did not and could not realistically compete in the political arena. The PRI utilized its extensive framework of clientistic organizations and, at times, electoral fraud to win votes and ensure victory. This, however, began to change for a variety of reasons in the eighties. The changing electorate no longer gave the PRI its unconditional support and secondary groups gained new found notoriety. In the national election of 1988, the PRI suffered drastic losses. Its presidential candidate won with only 50.7% of the vote, a 20% drop from the previous contest. In the lower chamber of Congress, opposition parties defeated the regime in 22% of the 300 single-member district elections (Craig& Cornelius 1995). Since 1988, this trend has continued. In fact, the PRI lost its majority in the congress for the first time in 1997. These electoral results indicate that the Mexican state is engaged in a process of democratization. For the last twenty years, this system has evolved from a stable and static "living museum" to an emerging liberal democracy. Due to both internal and external pressures, the PRI has continually lost support, and change has become prevalent in all sectors of government and society.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only