Right after Enrique Peña Nieto won the presidency, I wrote
that a key challenge would be "The unscripted presidency. EPN's advisors won't be able to script his presidency the way they did his campaign."
It turns out that, at least regarding the first year, I was partially wrong about that. They scripted the legislative agenda for year one beautifully. The president set an agenda, forged a political pact among the parties, and then checked the boxes off on each item on the to do list. He passed education reform, telecom reform, fiscal reform, and energy reform is looking likely to pass soon.
At the basic level, the image and political narrative created is of a president getting things done to reform institutions. In that sense, everything is on script.
Of course, if you dig down, the details of those reforms are not as bold as they were sold. Implementation of education reform remains stuck at the state level and several teacher organizations continue to protest. Everyone is still waiting on the secondary laws for telecom reform and then its implementation to see if it actually breaks up the big monopolies. Fiscal reform ended up angering the business community and not meeting its targets for revenue or spending. Energy reform has a long road ahead even after the initial constitutional change passes.
While he's created an image of being a president who can pass legislation, the other side of the political narrative coin is that the two key issues, security and economic growth, have not seen the improvements Peña Nieto promised during his campaign. Having promised a 50% reduction in homicides, he's had a 10-20% reduction that has been replaced with a big increase in kidnapping and extortion. The Mexican economy had a slow year in 2013 and forecasts for 2014 are going down.
I expect the president to continue to push an economic-focused agenda in his second year, keeping security a secondary issue. Even if his policies aren't particularly different from his predecessor, EPN doesn't want his presidency to be defined by the fight against organized crime. His one big security plan to create a 40,000 strong gendarmerie has virtually disappeared. He has reacted at times to criminal group shifts in certain regions, most recently militarizing the port of Lazaro Cardenas, but doesn't have a pro-active strategy to try to fight against the criminal groups nationally.
EPN enters year two having successfully used up a good amount of
political capital in passing bills, but having challenges in
implementing them. At some point the media or the citizens will hold
his administration accountable for not improving the security or
economic situation as promised. As the mid-point of his term gets closer, the other political parties will stop cooperating to prepare for the 2015 legislative elections. But don't underestimate this president
and his advisors, who are politically talented. They have certainly
thought through how they would like to script the second year agenda to run.