Mexico: What the President-Elect's Call for a Moral Constitution Means

3 MINS READNov 27, 2018 | 18:57 GMT
The Big Picture

When he enters office in December, Mexico's president-elect will expand the avenues for Mexican citizens to demand political change. In addition to pursuing a broad constitutional reform effort to expand the authority of national referendums, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will ask the citizenry for input on what he has dubbed a "moral constitution." Although not legally binding, the document will likely include requests for populist policy changes that Lopez Obrador could pursue. But in all likely scenarios, the drive for change will also increase uncertainty in the private sector and spark political opposition.

What Happened

Mexico's new leader is moving forward with his plan to create a set of social guidelines and shared values that he has dubbed a moral constitution. On Nov. 26, Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set out a timetable for drafting the new document. According to Lopez Obrador, the presidency will accept submissions from members of different elements of Mexican civil society from Dec. 3, 2018, to April 20, 2019. The government will then convene on July 31 to determine which proposals to include in a final draft.

Why It Matters

Lopez Obrador has said that the document will not be legally binding, but the process he started may still end with legislative changes. His request for proposals from different sectors of Mexico's civil society — which could include interest groups and political factions with clear ideological agendas — will likely lead to requests to change the country's laws or constitution to address long-standing grievances. 

Opening up a new channel for grievances means that Lopez Obrador will also be opening a new source of uncertainty for investors.

Populist demands for greater social spending or for mandatory consultations ahead of public works and energy projects, for example, could plausibly find their way into the process. The request for suggestions will likely be met with calls for populist policy changes, some of which the Lopez Obrador administration may choose to pursue for their political expediency ahead of the 2021 midterm election or the 2024 presidential vote.


Lopez Obrador is trying to introduce more avenues for democratic participation in Mexico, where citizens have traditionally had few options to involve themselves outside of federal elections. Primarily, the president-elect has pushed for such increased participation to come through a constitutional amendment to make referendums legally binding, more frequent and focused on a wider range of subjects. However, the drive for a moral constitution and greater citizen participation in politics will come at a cost. By opening up a channel for a wide range of groups to air their grievances with the status quo, Lopez Obrador will also be opening a new source of uncertainty for investors.

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