Searching decentralized and structural responses to authoritarian populism: Mexican constitutional agencies as democracy-shapers

Neo-authoritarian political developments have reignited interest in the division of powers. Our paper focuses on Mexican constitutional agencies (OCAs), comprising nine institutions as varied as the electoral agency (INE), the ombuds (CNDH), the Central bank (Banxico), the anti-trust bodies (COFECE, IFETEL), or the transparency agency (INAI). Our analysis suggests that OCAs have contributed to democratic politics by generating various political goods, well beyond the “technical” responsibilities that supported their initial creation. In our view, they provide crucial institutional spaces in the quest to find bottom-up democratic venues that help constrain neo-messianic presidents, operating not only reactively and ex post, but in a decentralized and structural way. Promising as it may seem, taking this stance versus OCAs also forces us to ponder what reforms and adjustments may guarantee accountability and boost their positive political contributions while minimizing their risks.