On Sunday, tens of thousands of people all across Mexico took to the streets in protest at what they believe to be an overhaul of democracy. This comes after Congress began discussing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to reform the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE), the country’s election authority, last week.
Lopez Obrador originally proposed the plan in April earlier this year, stating how the institute only serves the elite and is untrustworthy. He’s also accused Mexico’s election authorities of sabotaging his campaign when he ran for the presidency in 2006 and 2012. Under the initiative, public funding of political parties will be suspended, political advertisements will be limited, and the public will now have the ability to elect the members of the electoral authorities. The country’s lower chamber of Congress will also be shortened from 500 to 300 members, and its Senate from 128 to 96 since these positions aren’t directly elected by the populace. Lopez Obrador has stated that his initiative will allow for more citizen participation in government and less control by the economic interests of the elite.
However, the plan has gotten widespread criticism from many opposition parties and civil society organizations, who brand it as a grab for power since it would put the INE, one of the country’s most trusted and well-respected organizations, under the more direct control of the president. The funding of INE would also be cut under this plan, further weakening the power it has. And although citizens will be able to select who will be on the INE’s board, critics point out how the candidates are chosen by the branches of government, which Lopez Obrador’s party, MORENA, has major influence over.
Demonstrators marching against the proposed reform of the country’s electoral government on Sunday in Mexico City (Photo provided by LUIS CORTES/REUTERS)
Opposition parties of MORENA called for Mexico’s citizens to march out onto the streets of its capital, Mexico City, and other cities across the country. Local police have said that there were marches as big as 50,000, while opposition parties have put that number in the hundreds of thousands. Either way, it’s still one of the biggest marches to ever happen against Lopez Obrador’s policies. In Mexico City, protesters had shirts, banners, and placards, all with slogans similar to “defending the INE.” “I hope that many young people – and even those who are normally not interested in politics – will attend, that they will value our institutions, and will defend what our parents and grandparents built to mature politically,” said Ana Lilia Moreno, an economist who attended the march in the capital. Organizers of the protests have said that their goal was not to march against the president, but rather to urge lawmakers to vote against it.
During one of his morning press conferences last week, Lopez Obrador condemned the organizers of the demonstrations, calling promoters “corrupt” people who only aim to trick the populace. He defended his plan, stating that it’s the best way to avoid election fraud. However, unless Lopez Obrador gets support from some of the opposition, chances are his proposal will not have enough votes to be passed.