Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing the worst approval ratings of his six-year term – in spite of enacting significant structural reforms to Mexico’s tax and education systems, economy and energy sectors.
Nearly 70 percent of Mexicans saying the country is moving in the wrong direction, according to a recent survey conducted by the Mexican polling firm buendia&laredo.
Sixty-three percent of respondents disapproved of the president’s performance – up by seven percent since March and an increase of 12 percent since last November.
Peña Nieto has little more than 28 months left before his term ends in November of 2018.
In February 2013, just a few months after his term began at the end of 2012, he enjoyed an approval rating of 56 percent.
Ironically, foremost among apparent reasons for his sliding popularity is the program of structural reforms which he introduced.
When survey respondents were asked to name the president’s “worst accomplishment,” the reforms – the cornerstone of his commitment to liberate Mexico from monopolies, widespread tax evasion, the state-controlled energy sector and an educational system crippled by a corrupt and powerful teachers’ union – received the most disapproval.
Moreover, some 84 percent of the survey respondents said that Peña Nieto does not have the country’s problems “under control.”
The president has “lost control of the public agenda by not conveying a coherent narrative about what his government is doing,” said Edgar Moreno, a partner in the public policy consulting firm, ImpactoSocial Consultores.
“The government quit too soon in their effort to convince people that the reforms would translate into benefits for their pockets,” he said.
“The government tries to sell education reform, but they haven’t given any proof that they are really serious about it.”
Moreno said he believed the government was “very weak right now” because it had been unable to carry out the policies to which it had committed itself.
Peña Nieto’s effort to reform Mexico’s tax system was his “greatest mistake” in terms of losing the public’s support, he said, recalling that the business sector had predicted that would discourage investment.
“It went all across the board taxing everyone, so that was the first mistake of Peña Nieto’s administration and the most important one. It harmed everyone. It was a transfer from all of Mexican society to the government.”
“The only one who won was [the] government,” he added.
“We haven’t seen the benefits of energy, telecom and other reforms,” said Mariana Meza of the Mexican think tank CIDAC, speaking from her office in Mexico City.
“They promised three percent GDP growth and this year it’s less than 2.3 percent.”
CIDAC issued an analysis in June of the challenges facing the president, highlighting his embattled posture with many sectors of Mexican society.
Successful constitutional reforms which Peña Nieto championed on same-sex marriage angered the Catholic Church; the secretary of defense is opposed to the widespread use of the military to fight crime in the streets; and a minority of striking teachers continue violent protests against reform.
The report said that one of the first measures undertaken by Peña Nieto was education reform tying teachers’ salaries to performance evaluations.
But now, Meza noted, the administration faces a “very complicated situation” as it tries to “negotiate with the teachers and control the protests.”
The CIDAC report also pointed to scandals that have tainted members of the cabinet, including the ex-federal water commissioner, ex-tax chief, and the secretary of communications and transport. Even the president and his wife were accused of financially benefitting from a company that did business with the State of Mexico when Peña Nieto was governor there.
“None of these cases has been punished by the relevant authorities, and the federal government has wasted its opportunities to demonstrate a commitment against corruption,” the report concluded.