Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: presidencia.gob.mx

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

In a true if-the-mountain-won’t-come-to-Mohammed moment, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said Tuesday, Dec. 21, that should the National Electoral Institute (INE) not agree to hold his controversial mandate revocation referendum, Mexican citizens could organize the nonbinding poll on their own.

“Democracy comes from the people, not from an administrative apparatus,”AMLO said during his daily morning press conference, when asked by one of his followers if he was willing to forgo the electoral institute’s intervention and let the general public run the referendum, which was tentatively scheduled to take place in April but was suspended by the INE due to a lack of funding and, as of Tuesday, insufficient signatures for the process to go through.

“It is up to the INE to carry out the referendum, That is its constitutional mandate. But is the INE refuses to carry it out, the citizens of Mexico could hold the referendum themselves,” AMLO said.

However, without the INE electoral apparatus, which has mechanisms to ensure a clean, transparent voting process, there would be no way to guarantee that the referendum would be fair.

AMLO and the INE have been at political loggerheads since the president first took office in December 2018, with the electoral institute repeatedly calling out López Obrador for the violation of electoral rules and constitutional law.

In response, AMLO has repeatedly hacked away at the INE’s operational budget, most recently to the tune of 5 billion pesos, nearly 25 percent of its annual funds, in his 2022 federal budget.

On Friday, Dec. 17, the INE Council voted to postpone indefinitely the referendum, claiming that with the new budget cuts, the organization will not have the money to hold the referendum, which has been described by many as a presidential whim and a forerunner to a future bid by him to extend his six-year mandate.

Moreover, AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party has so far not been able to collect enough verified signatures to justify the referendum, and thousands of those names that it has managed to collect have been shown by the INE to be either false, duplicated, of deceased persons, of kindergarteners or even of dogs.

The case is now being reviewed by Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF).

On Tuesday, AMLO said that he would wait to see what resolution the TEPJF renders before encouraging a referendum organized by the general public, which critics pointed out would no doubt mean organized by his band of followers, with no opposition participation.

“I believe that if the referendum will take place,” he said, adding that he was convinced that the INE’s arguments against holding it are politically motivated.

“If it were really a matter of money, the INE could call on the public and authorities to help out.,” he said.

“But it is not a matter of money. The INE does not want democracy, or it wants democracy only when it favors and helps them.”

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