Massive turnout in defense of Mexico’s electoral authority

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Tens of thousands of people gathered on a main boulevard in the Mexican capital on Sunday to protest President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposed overhaul of the country’s electoral authority, in the biggest demonstration against one of the president’s efforts in nearly four years in office.

The strong turnout was a sharp rebuke to the president’s claim that only a relatively small elite opposition faces criticism.

Opposition parties and civil society organizations have called on Mexicans to demonstrate in the capital and other cities against proposed electoral reforms that would replace the National Electoral Institute, one of the country’s most respected and trusted institutions.

López Obrador sees the institute as an elite institution, but critics say his reforms would threaten its independence and make it more political. The initiative includes eliminating state-level election offices, reducing public funding for political parties, and allowing the public to elect elected officials instead of members of the lower house of Congress.

It would also reduce the number of lawmakers in the lower house of Congress from 500 to 300 and the number of senators from 128 to 96 by eliminating at-large lawmakers. They are not directly elected by voters, but are placed on party lists and receive seats based on their party’s share of the vote.

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The proposal is expected to be debated in the coming weeks in Mexico’s Congress, where President Morena’s party and allies have the upper hand.

“I’m fed up with Andrés Manuel, so many lies, so many crimes,” said manager Alejandra Galán, 45, who held up a Mexican flag in the middle of the crowd. “He wants to take away (the electoral institute) from us so that in the end it will be like Venezuela, Cuba, but we will not allow it.”

Jorge González said such comparisons with authoritarian regimes may seem exaggerated at the moment, but “I think it’s just a step. We must make a clear distinction between powers, independent institutions and especially the National Electoral Institute.

The 49-year-old, who works in the financial sector, pointed to seven decades of uninterrupted rule by the Institutional Revolution Party, which was finally overthrown in 2000. “The fear is not to have an independent civil institution that we can really trust. elections and (instead) return to an institution where it is run by a single party.

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Fernando Belaunzárán, one of the initiators of the protest, said that 200,000 people took part in the march. The authorities have not confirmed this number.

López Obrador has fought electoral authorities for decades. He has repeatedly considered himself a victim of electoral fraud, even though it was the National Election Institute that confirmed his landslide victory in the 2018 presidential election.

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 pass constitutional reform without opposition support.

Last week, López Obrador devoted much of his daily morning news conferences to dismissing the organizers of the demonstration, calling them “cretins” and “corrupt” for trying to deceive the people. He defended the proposal as an effort to cut the electoral body’s budget and prevent “election fraud”.

Some analysts agree that the cost savings would be desirable, but some worry that eliminating state election offices would centralize power too much at the federal level and sacrifice efficiency.

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Selecting the members of the Electoral Court and leading the institute by popular vote would give parties more power to select candidates. Also, the proposal would reduce the number of institute council members from 11 to seven.

Patricio Morelos of the Technological University of Monterrey pointed out that López Obrador has high popularity and his party controls most of Mexico’s 32 state governments, so they would have an advantage if the electoral authority were to be reorganized and likely to control.

Protester Giovanni Rodrigo, a 44-year-old salaried worker, said López Obrador does not want to let go of power if he is not in the presidency, he wants to decide for whom.

“I definitely believe that he is the best politician that exists today in modern history, and that is why he is the owner of a party that controls most of the states of Mexico,” he said. “It wasn’t enough. He wants more and more.”

AP writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.

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