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Subverting Judicial Legitimacy: Presidential Rhetoric and Democratic Erosion in Mexico

rooftop 1211
Monday, December 11, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

The De- and Re-Democratization (DRD) Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute cordially invites you to its next Rooftop Seminar.

If you would like to attend, please register by 9:00 AM on December 11 here.

Please keep in mind that external guests cannot enter the building without prior registration. Due to space restrictions, attendance is limited. We ask registered visitors to pick up their temporary visiting card at the reception. The event is not open to the press.


In recent years, Mexico's judiciary has faced systematic assaults coming not only from the executive branch but also from the legislative power. Both the executive and its party have criticized the judiciary's role when deciding high-profile political cases, launching attacks that accuse judges of being a corrupt elite benefiting from hefty salaries. These attacks portray judges as protectors of interests conflicting with those of citizens and the democratically elected representatives. Under López Obrador's administration, cases of significant political relevance have been brought before the courts. The Supreme Court has reviewed several of these cases and issued decisions against the president preferences —something that the literature on judicial politics recognizes as a key indicator of the Supreme Court's independence—, leading to executive attacks on the judiciary and its members, polarizing society and uncovering mechanisms that the literature on democratization highlights as indicators of democratic erosion. This study delves into the dynamics of assaults on the judiciary and its relationship with the erosion of democracy. What steps executive attacks follow to erode judicial legitimacy and independence? How can attacks on the judiciary lead to democratic erosion? What role do judges play in accelerating or stopping such regression? To address these questions, an original database was utilized. Through web-scraping techniques, stenographic transcripts of the President's Morning Press Conferences, speeches, as well as plenary sessions of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, were collected. The database comprises a total of 1,358 Morning Press Conferences and speeches delivered by the President between December 2018 and June 2023. Additionally, it includes 337 plenary sessions from the Chamber of Deputies and 382 sessions retrieved from the Senate's website.

The paper is available upon request from the author.


Azul A. Aguiar-Aguilar is Professor of political science in the Department of Sociopolitical and Legal Studies at ITESO, the Jesuit University of Guadalajara. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Florence. She teaches courses of political science, judicial politics and democratization in undergraduate and graduate programs at ITESO and the University of Guadalajara. Her research interests include comparative judicial politics and democratization processes. She is author of Legal culture, sociopolitical origins, and professional careers of judges in Mexico (forthcoming), several articles in peer review journals and book chapters on studies of Courts, reforms to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defenders. She is the current president of the Mexican Political Science Association (AMECIP) and has been distinguished as member of the National Researchers System in Mexico.


Edit Zgut-Przybylska is an adjunct professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology (IFIS) in the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and a visiting fellow at CEU Democracy Institute. She received her PhD in Sociology from GSSR at IFIS PAN. She holds an MA in Political Science from ELTE TÁTK and graduated as a journalist at Bálint György Journalism Academy. Her research interest covers informality and populism in the context of democratic backsliding and the constraining role of the European Union. She published in peer-reviewed journals like the European Politics and Society and the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law. She is the Vice-Chair of Amnesty International Hungary and a visiting lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department. She previously worked at Political Capital Research Institute and prior to that, she was a journalist at various media outlets in Hungary.


Andreas Schedler is a Senior Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute. He is the Lead Researcher of the De/Re-Democratization Working Group and a Visiting Professor at CEU Vienna. He earned his PhD from the University of Vienna. Before joining the CEU, he was a professor of political science at the Center for Economic Teaching and Research (cide) in Mexico City. A leading comparative scholar of democracy, democratization, and authoritarianism, he has conducted research on democratic consolidation and transition, authoritarian elections, anti-political-establishment parties, political accountability, and organized violence. He is also known for his methodological work on concept analysis and cross-national measurement. His current research focuses on political polarization and the destruction of basic democratic trust.