By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF
As Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) continues with his quest to rewrite the Mexican Constitution, undo the energy reform implemented by his predecessor, grasp control of all three powers of government and stack the Congress with even more of his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) cohorts, the National Electoral Institute (INE) is finding itself more and more on the receiving end of his political tirades.
In an article published earlier this month in Americas Quarterly, Mexican socialist, political science professor and former INE counselor Jacqueline Peschard points out the inherent dangers of AMLO head-on confrontation with the institute — one of the last bastions in defense of Mexican democracy — as the country approaches what will be its largest election in its history on June 6.
In her article, published on April 14, Peschard notes that, despite repeated appeals by the INE to respect the democratic process and refrain from incendiary comments against opposing political parties, AMLO “has already begun throwing public jabs,” not just as its political foes, but at the INE itself.
Peschard makes reference to the fact that on April 13, AMLO came right out and said he had “no confidence” in the INE, an autonomous public organization which was founded in 1990 as the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) to ensure fair and open elections.
In his incessant assault on the INE, AMLO went even further, saying that the electoral body was a corrupt institution “at the service of antidemocracy.”
Meanwhile, on the very same day that AMLO made that comment (April 12), he remained silent about the abominable electoral behavior of his close friend and ally, the accused rapist and alleged embezzler Félix Salgado Macedonio, who, because he had blatantly violated campaign spending laws, was denied permission by the INE to run for the office of governor of Guerrero as the Morena candidate.
In response to the INE’s decision, Salgado Macedonio threatened INE President Lorenzo Córdova during a protest against the institute.
AMLO refused to condemn Salgado Macedonio’s actions.
“Such antagonism toward Mexico’s central electoral authority comes at a time when tensions and stakes are especially high,” writes Peschard.
“A midterm election in June will see some 93.5 million voters fill over 21,000 government posts, a historic number that includes all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress. There are fears the president’s recent attacks could dampen faith in the election and in an electoral institution that has been foundational to Mexico’s democracy.”
Peschard goes on to explain that “AMLO’s recent ire toward the INE stems from two resolutions that the president has interpreted as deliberate attempts by the institute to weaken his party Morena’s hold on power.”
“The first enforced a constitutional limit on a party’s representation in Congress, which had been often flouted using loopholes. The second resolution, however, has proven especially problematic for the president,” she says.
“The INE canceled the registration of 49 candidates, including 43 Morena candidates, for failure to submit mandated pre-campaign financial reports (among them was Salgado Macedonio).”
By “effectively quashed the candidacies” of Salgado Macedonio, along with the Morena gubernatorial bid for Michoacán, Raúl Morón, (whose second appeal to Mexico’s Superior Electoral Tribunal is still under review), the INE has, in AMLO’s eyes, waged full-out war against his so-called Fourth Transformation (4T) bid to redesign Mexico’s entire political framework.
“AMLO has lambasted the resolution (that cancelled Salgado Macedonio’s and Morón’s bids for candidacies), even though Mexican electoral law states that failure to submit financial reports will lead to the cancellation of the corresponding candidacy,” Peschard says.
But without the INE, Mexico’s frail democracy is clearly endangered.
“With roots in Mexico’s transition to democratic elections, the INE has for decades helped fortify Mexican democracy,” Peschard writes.
“The body’s predecessor, the Federal Electoral Institute, was created … after opposition parties protested fraud in elections two years prior, ultimately challenging the passive consensus around the then-hegemonic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Opposition parties were able to pressure the ruling party to sign a series of political agreements that would establish an independent electoral body, an essential element in guaranteeing free, fair and competitive elections.”
Peschard notes that “since the PRI lost its majority in Congress for the first time in 1997, federal, local and municipal elections have led to consistent transitions in power.”
“According to a recent survey on civic culture, the INE rates as the most trusted Mexican institution apart from the military,” she continues.
“Unfortunately, today the INE is confronted with a president and party set on maintaining their majority even if it risks weakening electoral institutions. Since winning 53 percent of the votes in the 2018 presidential election and a 61 percent majority in the lower house for his coalition, AMLO has concentrated power in the executive, strengthening his control over public energy agencies, restricting market competition in strategic sectors and shrinking bureaucratic agencies. AMLO’s ‘austerity’ measures serve to shore up resources for popular social and poverty alleviation programs, as well as visible infrastructure projects like the Tren Maya (tourist train) line, the Santa Lucía airport and the new oil refinery in Tabasco, the president’s home state.”
Peschard goes on to underscore the fact that while López Obrador continues to throw federal money at these three controversial pet projects (all of which have raised concerns from environmentalists and jurisprudence experts alike), “civil society organizations, academic institutions and independent newspapers, meanwhile, have seen public funding reduced across the board as the president paints them as opposition groups.”
“AMLO’s political project is far from complete, however, and should Morena lose its majority in Congress, the president will find the second half of his term much more difficult,” she says.
“Indeed, Morena’s very future as a cohesive political organization may be at risk. The group’s diverse factions and the contrasting political backgrounds are held together by AMLO’s personal leadership and grip on power. A compromised majority could result in internal fragmentation, undermining its position ahead of the 2024 elections.”
And it is precisely this potential scenario, Peschard says, that is driving AMLO’s obsessive attacks on all things opposition, and all things he perceives as opposing him, including the INE.
“With this risk on the horizon, AMLO has locked his sights on the INE as a check on his power. The INE’s recent resolutions show that its electoral counselors have chosen to defend the institution’s independence, even if it means appearing to stand in opposition to AMLO’s project. In doing so, they have received broad support from civil society,” she says.
“The ongoing conflict, however, may stoke fear or indifference among voters, negatively impacting voter turnout in an outcome that would ultimately benefit the majority party and the use of clientelist political mobilization. If allowed to heat up in the coming months, the public spat could undermine trust in the electoral system. As campaign season begins, both AMLO and the INE should take this moment to step back, allowing candidates and parties to present their proposals and engage in debate with the public. The future of Mexican democracy stands to benefit.”
…April 26, 2021