Mexico's New Politics: The PAN and Democratic Change

In This Review

Mexico's New Politics: The PAN and Democratic Change

By David A. Shirk
Lynne Rienner, 2004
279 pp. $58.50
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The author of this authoritative history of the National Action Party (PAN) was one of the few Mexicans to forecast the victory of the party's nominee, Vicente Fox, in the 2000 elections. Applying an institutional analysis to party building, Shirk takes us through the PAN's internal struggles as it moved from Progressive Era-style urban reform to Christian Democracy to its contemporary mix of pro-business pragmatism and good governance. In setting the stage for Fox's triumph, the PAN veered from outright opposition to the authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to collaboration in return for democratizing reforms. But the party leadership failed to build on victories in local elections to reach out beyond its middle-class Catholic base, so the more flexible Fox ran as a semi-independent. Shirk begrudgingly admires Fox's media savvy -- "contagion from the North" -- but cites his neglect of party building -- only 19 percent of senior appointments werePANistas -- as contributing to PAN losses in the 2003 midterm congressional elections. Looking ahead to the 2006 elections, he places his bets on a PRI comeback or a left-wing Revolutionary Democratic Party breakthrough victory.