The recently concluded ordinary session of Congress, the first full one on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's watch, serves as a good barometer of the legislative effectiveness and political capacity of the new governing coalition. Given that the Morena-led coalition has effectively built a more than two-thirds majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the Senate is only 10 votes shy of that super majority needed for congressional reforms, one would expect the government and its allies in Congress to be engaged in a frenetic level of legislative activity. Yet, since the current Congress was sworn in last September, the administration has sent only six bills, including the 2019 budget package.
In all probability this relative paucity of proposals from the National Palace is a strategic decision to shield the President from congressional defeats, and to allow greater wiggle room in building coalitions over key issues such as the constitutional reforms to create the National Guard. It is also an approach conducive to managing the multiplicity of interests, ideological currents and political ambitions percolating within this coalition, some of which occasionally lead to open conflict or defeats, such as the Senate’s failure to pass the education reform last week when several coalition senators opted not to show up for the vote.
This slow pace of legislative change could pick up steam in the next few months as special sessions of Congress are in the works, and a considerable number of bills that were approved in one chamber during the last session are awaiting passage in the other. Moreover, this relatively inexperienced cabinet is struggling with an arduous learning curve, but once it gets its footing it should begin to generate legislation going forward.
And then there is the problem of AMLO’s apparent belief that addressing some of the country's main problems requires less in the way of legislative changes than direct action by the president himself. This perspective is particularly obvious in his approach to what he regards as the root of all the country’s problems: corruption - a topic on which he has yet to deliver any significant legislation.
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