Massive participation in the defense of the Mexican electoral authority
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of people gathered on the Mexican capital’s main boulevard on Sunday to protest President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to reshuffle the country’s electoral authority in the largest demonstration against one of the president’s efforts during his nearly four years in office.
The massive turnout was a strong rebuke to the president’s assertion that criticism only comes from a relatively small elite opposition.
Opposition parties and civil society organizations had called on Mexicans to demonstrate in the capital and other cities against proposed electoral reforms that would reshape the National Electoral Institute, one of the most prized institutions and most reliable in the country.
López Obrador sees the institute as beholden to the elite, but critics say his reforms would threaten its independence and make it more political. The initiative includes eliminating state-level electoral offices, reducing public funding for political parties, and allowing the public to elect members of the electoral authority rather than the lower house of Congress.
It would also reduce the number of lawmakers in the lower house of Congress from 500 to 300 and senators from 128 to 96 by eliminating legislators at large. These are not directly elected by voters, but appear on party lists and obtain seats according to their party’s share of votes.
The proposal is expected to be discussed in the Mexican Congress in the coming weeks, where the president’s Morena party and its allies hold an advantage.
López Obrador has spent decades battling electoral authorities. He considers himself a victim of electoral fraud on several occasions, even if it was the National Electoral Institute that confirmed his landslide presidential victory in 2018.
Organizers said the march was not against López Obrador, but to draw attention to the proposal and urge lawmakers to vote against it.
López Obrador’s party does not have enough votes to push through constitutional reform without the support of the opposition.
Last week, López Obrador devoted a good part of his daily morning press conferences to firing the promoters of the demonstration, calling them “cretins” and “corrupt”, with the aim of deceiving the people. He defended the proposal as seeking to cut the electoral authority’s budget and avoid « voter fraud ».
While agreeing that some cost savings might be desirable, some analysts worry that eliminating state election offices would concentrate power too much at the federal level and sacrifice efficiency.
Selecting electoral tribunal members and running the institute by popular vote would give parties more power to choose candidates. The proposal would also reduce the number of institute board members from 11 to seven.
Patricio Morelos of the Technological University of Monterrey pointed out that with López Obrador enjoying great popularity and his party controlling the majority of Mexico’s 32 state governments, they would have an advantage if the electoral authority was remade and would probably exercise control.
Fabiola Sanchez, Associated Press