The Mexican government and the opposition are facing each other in Congress to promote or stop the controversial electoral reform initiative of President López Obrador. What will happen to the INE? .
LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio
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Leer en español: AMLO: ¿Por qué hay temor a la reforma electoral?
On Sunday, November 13, thousands of citizens and politicians opposed to the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) marched in Mexico City to demonstrate against the president's reform initiative. The president minimized the event, which, according to government data, was attended by 12,000 people, while the opposition affirms that there were 500,000. The changes proposed by the reform would transform the Mexican electoral system to make it more citizen, according to the government, or to return it to government control, according to the opposition, in the midst of 2024.
An Electoral Reform Promoted by the Government
The common thing in electoral reforms, throughout the world, is that they are the product of demonstrations or promoted by the opposition to improve democratic mechanisms, but in the case of the one promoted by AMLO it comes from the government. The reform intends to transform the electoral authority and restructure a good part of the Mexican political system, especially in the legislative branch.
The Mexican electoral system is based on the National Electoral Institute (INE), an autonomous body in charge of organizing elections, and in the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF), in charge of resolving electoral controversies. There are also electoral bodies and state courts. Legislative power is organized in the Mexican Congress, which is made up of 500 deputies and 128 senators, in addition to the 31 state congresses and that of Mexico City.
AMLO's reform seeks to convert the INE into the National Institute of Elections and Consultations (INEC) in which the number of electoral advisors will be reduced from 11 to 7, who would be elected by popular vote and not by the Chamber of Deputies. The members of the Superior Chamber of the TEPJF would also be elected by popular vote. It is intended to reduce the number of deputies and senators to 300 and 96, respectively, as well as the deputies in the state congresses. The changes include the reduction of the budget and television times for political parties, the implementation of electronic voting and changes in the mechanisms for electing legislators, in addition to the reduction of the percentage with which mandate revocation consultations are binding.
AMLO's Reasons for a New Reform
In Mexico, it is an unwritten rule that current presidents present an electoral reform, but beyond "tradition" AMLO's reasons for his can be traced in his political career. In 2006, he lost in a close election against Felipe Calderón, with a difference of just 0.58%, that is, almost 250 thousand votes. In 2012 the difference with Peña Nieto was greater, but even so he denounced electoral fraud in both cases, although the electoral authorities determined that there was no such thing in 2006 or 2012. Thus, AMLO's relationship with the INE, which he considers controlled by the opposition right, it has been complicated. His reform seeks to make him match his vision, limiting his power and involving citizens in the election of electoral authorities.
The opposition denounces that the reform would only give control of the INE to the government, something that it considers a setback when returning to Mexico before 1990 (the year in which the IFE, today INE, was created). At that time, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled under a party dictatorship, so the creation of the autonomous electoral body was considered a victory for the incipient Mexican democracy. The opposition has been critical of the reform initiative, and we can review the main aspects: of the 500 current deputies, 300 are elected directly and 200 by proportional representation, as a mechanism to prevent one party from concentrating all power and to give certain representativeness to the least voted parties. The opposition fears that the elimination of proportional representation, that is, 200 deputies, will deepen the control of the majority party (AMLO's) in congress, while the same would happen with the Senate.
Although the measure to reduce the cost of Mexican democracy is popular, it is viewed with suspicion by the opposition. The budget that would be assigned to the parties would only be for elections, leaving the operating costs to their militants, which could cause the financing to come from sources such as organized crime and its negative implications. The reduction of electoral advisors, in addition to the election by popular vote, implies for the opposition a greater control of AMLO by using its popularity to impose them.
The Prelude to 2024, Will this Reform Unite the Opposition?
Mexico City, governed by AMLO's party, is surrounded by the State of Mexico, still governed by the PRI, which considers it its stronghold. Each six-year term, this state elects a ruler one year before the presidential elections, which is why it is considered a "test" of these. Thus, in 2023 there will be elections in this state that is set to be won by the AMLO candidate. This year, the president managed to temporarily fracture the "Va por México" alliance by managing to subdue the PRI leader, who "betrayed" the PAN and the PRD by voting in favor of the change in the National Guard.
However, the general rejection of the opposition to the electoral reform has the capacity to reunite the alliance and expand it by integrating the Movimiento Ciudadano (MC). If we add to this the call for the march last Sunday and the support of important businessmen, the opposition could show itself solid for the first time before AMLO, with the election of the State of Mexico in 2023 being the setting to show its "muscle". Although it should be clarified that the numbers play against the opposition, even if they all go in alliance. However, what is a fact is that it is his best opportunity against the power of López Obrador.