Electoral Competition and Institutional Change in Mexico

Caroline C. Beer

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

A 2004 Choice Outstanding Academic Book

Caroline Beer’s new book explores the consequences of democratic politics in Mexico. Focusing on struggles at the subnational level, she assesses how increased electoral competition alters the long-term distribution of power across political institutions in ways that shift power away from established elites and into the hands of ordinary citizens.

Electoral Competition and Institutional Change in Mexico includes compelling case study comparisons of three states with very different experiences with electoral democracy: Guanajuato, Hidalgo, and San Luis Potosí. These cases are then situated within a broader quantitative analysis of all thirty-one Mexican states. Beer’s research reverses the causal arrow of many standard studies by focusing on the causes of institutional change rather than the consequences of institutional design. Her analysis reveals that the process of increasing electoral competition has unleashed new forces that have slowly eroded the power of centralized, authoritarian elites in Mexico.

Utilizing a theoretical framework that draws on insights from classic democratic theory, new institutionalist literature, and current critiques of contemporary Latin American democracy, Beer’s important work represents the first comparative study of state legislatures and governors in Mexico and offers compelling insight into the bottom-up dynamics of Mexico’s transition to democracy.

CAROLINE C. BEER is assistant professor of political science at the University of Vermont.


“Beer’s straightforward and accessible writing style, methodological rigor, and academic contribution are first class. Beer’s book is a must for students of Mexican politics and of the democratization process in general. Essential.” — Choice

“Caroline Beer makes an important contribution to this approach to Mexican democratization by examining state-level electoral competition in the 1990s and its impact on institutional development, particularly of state legislatures, and on political recruitment, especially of gubernatorial candidates. She argues that democratization resulted from a complex interplay between opposition victories in subnational elections and important democratic advances in the national political arena. Beer has provided a conceptually lucid and carefully researched analysis of the subnational electoral competition and its implications for institutional development at the state level. Any study that seeks to offer a comprehensive view of Mexican democratization must incorporate her insights.” — Perspectives on Politics

”. . . an innovative and methodologically sophisticated analysis of electoral politics in Mexican states. . . . a brilliant example of meticulous scholarship. . . . Beer makes a key contribution to our understanding of contemporary Mexican politics, and to the academic debate about the causes of institutional change and the consequences of democratization. . . . the book sets high standards for future analysis of electoral politics in Mexico. . . . ” — Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe/European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Beer writes well, and the book is logically organised. It will be of interest to all researchers studying the political consequences of democratisation in Latin America.” Journal of Latin American Studies

“Beer’s book departs from standard studies of democratization by focusing on subnational politics, the uneven nature of democratic transition across subnational units, and the bottom-up dynamics of transition.” — Perspectives on Political Science

“[The book] will certainly become standard fare for students of new Mexican politics.” — Latin American Research Review