AMLO’s Controversial Electoral Reform Is Threat to Democracy
By KELIN DILLON
After years of repeated talk about reforming Mexico’s electoral system, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced on Thursday, April 28, that he would be sending his new electoral reform legislation to Mexican Congress, which would replace the autonomous National Electoral Institute (INE) with an organization called the Institute of National Elections and Consultation, as well as eliminate plurinominal deputies – proportional representation of voters’ partisan divisions – from the Chamber of Deputies.
This is far from AMLO’s first bout with the INE. April’s mandate revocation controversy brought plenty of the institution and executive’s inherent ideological differences to light, a battle similarly fought throughout June 2021’s midterm elections. Back in January 2021, López Obrador announced his intentions to eliminate autonomous organizations like the INE and absorb them into pre-existing government bodies instead – an idea he now intends to follow through on with this newly introduced legislature.
“Today the proposal is sent so that it can be analyzed, debated and approved in Congress,” said AMLO. “I don’t think there is another country in the world – and it is shameful – with more electoral fraud than Mexico, with more impositions, with a lack of democracy, with a predominance of single parties, with mafias of power dominating the country and groups of created interests that they rule and decide, which reached the extreme of subordinating all public powers,” he said.
“In practice, I have said it: There is no democracy (in Mexico).”
AMLO’s words rang with irony, as his proposed elimination of plurinominal deputies and senators would instead concentrate the region’s electoral power in the hands of one singular party, his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), rather than reflect the different ideologies and partisan allegiances of constituents across Mexico.
Apart from reducing the plurinominal representation, which would see the total senator and deputy count drop from 128 to 96 and 500 to 300, respectively, the pending electoral reform would go on to propose a new citizen election of electoral advisors to the newly minted Institute of National Elections and Consultation, reduce parties’ financing, reduce the budget for holding elections, introduce electronic voting, allow Mexicans living abroad to participate in elections, federalize elections and reform 18 constitutional articles to make the process cheaper overall. According to López Obrador’s administration, the new initiative could result in the savings of 24 billion pesos.
“These are issues that have been demanded by citizens to cheapen democracy,” said Mexico’s Head of Customs (and former plurinominal deputy himself) Horacio Duarte Olivares during Thursday’s conference.
For the opposition parties to AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena), there have been widespread concerns surrounding the reform’s underlying intentions to eliminate opposition representation from Mexico’s legislative bodies; and while López Obrador and his fellow Morena members may cry “democracy,” critics say this Morena-friendly reform is anything but.