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Democracy, judicialisation and the emergence of the Supreme Court as a policy-maker in Mexico

Saavedra-Herrera, Camilo (2013) Democracy, judicialisation and the emergence of the Supreme Court as a policy-maker in Mexico. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In 1994, four days after taking office, Ernesto Zedillo, the last president to govern Mexico emerging from the once hegemonic National Revolutionary Party, promoted a major redesign of the Supreme Court of Justice that substantially expanded its constitutional review powers and reduced its size from 26 to 11 members. The operation of this more compact and powerful body was left in charge of 11 justices nominated by Zedillo. During the period 1917-1994, the Supreme Court adjudicated only 63 constitutional cases of its exclusive jurisdiction. In contrast, since the reform came into force in 1995, it has been the arena in which more than two thousand constitutional cases have been ultimately settled. Why do courts established under authoritarian rule become effective policy-makers as democracy develops? Using Mexico as a case study and drawing on the strategic approach for the study of courts, this thesis argues that the Supreme Court turned into an effective policy-maker as a result of the convergence of three factors: institutional change (from judicial reform), political fragmentation (from democratisation) and an unprecedented internal stability. Judicial reform set a new institutional framework; political fragmentation triggered the use of constitutional review by political actors; and stability enhanced experience within the Court and prompted justices to more proactively engage in policy-making. Through an appealing case study, a novel research strategy and original evidence consisting of four original datasets and thirty-five elite-interviews, this thesis contributes, first, to the comparative analysis of courts by offering a systematic and comprehensive account of judicial rulings and precedents and their impact both within and beyond judicial boundaries; second, to the judicialisation literature by highlighting the effects of the delegation of power to courts on judicial performance; and third, to the Mexican politics scholarship by providing a re-assessment of the role of the Supreme Court in regime dynamics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Camilo Emiliano Saavedra-Herrera
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Philip, George

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