The Mexican opposition took to the streets this Sunday in various cities of the country to protest against a controversial electoral reform promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, alleging that it puts the 2024 general elections at risk.
On Wednesday, the Senate, dominated by the ruling party Morena and his allies, completed the approval of a reform to the National Electoral Institute (INE) that, among other things, cuts its budget and powers by closing offices and dismissing officials to million dollar savings
In Mexico City, thousands of protesters filled the emblematic capital square of the Zócalo, the center of Mexican power, and surrounding streets, many of them dressed in pink clothing, the color of the electoral institution that the protests have taken as a symbol.
Among the participants was Alejandro Moreno, president and deputy of one of the main opposition groups, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
“Mexicans and Mexicans are on the side of democracy, together we make ourselves heard so that the democratic institutions of the country are not destroyed!” Moreno said in a tweet accompanied by a photo of him in the middle of the protests.
Verónica Echevarría, a 58-year-old psychologist from Mexico City who was participating in the protest, said she was concerned that the INE reform is an attempt by López Obrador to seize control of the electoral authority in order to stay in power.
“We are fighting to defend our democracy,” she said, wearing a cap that read “The INE is not touched.”
At the end of last year, thousands of people also came out to protest against the reform. Once it enters into force, the opposition will appeal the modifications before the Supreme Court of Justice.
The changes have been seen by analysts as an attempt by the president to weaken the INE and generate democratic setbacks. But the president has defended his initiative, assuring that it will strengthen democracy and reduce the influence of economic interests in politics.
“Normally, presidents seek to have governability and stability for their succession. But the president (López Obrador) is generating uncertainty,” said Fernando Belaunzarán, an opposition politician who helped organize the protest.
This Sunday Belaunzarán announced on his social networks that there would be marches in more than 100 cities.
In June next year, Mexicans will elect a successor to López Obrador, a 69-year-old leftist who claims the presidency was stolen from him twice before he finally won a landslide in the 2018 election.
Although the changes approved this week are less ambitious than the original constitutional reform sought by the president, they significantly modify the composition of the INE and eliminate 85% of the positions in its professional service, a mechanism that guarantees equal opportunities in access to public administration based on merit.
According to an analysis by the INE itself, the reform jeopardizes the preparation of the electoral roll, the installation of polling stations, the counting of votes and the supervision of political parties and electoral campaigns.
López Obrador said this week that the institution is one of the most expensive electoral bodies, in addition to having an “undemocratic” role, and described the protests this Sunday as “a demonstration to defend the old corrupt regime.”
For many political analysts, the INE and its predecessor, the IFE, played a key role in helping to create a pluralistic democracy that in 2000 ended decades of rule by the once-all-powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Polls show Morena to be the overwhelming favorite to win the 2024 election. However, critics argue that López Obrador is less confident that his party can retain power without interfering in the electoral process.
“(The reform) significantly affects the operational capacity of the INE, as well as the organization of electoral day, which would be subject to multiple risks, given the weakening of the highest electoral body,” said Senator Gina Cruz, from the opposition Party National Action (PAN). “The president’s ultimate and real goal is to steal the 2024 elections.”
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