By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) so-called electoral reform bill, which he announced during his Thursday, April 28, press conference at the National Palace and sent to Congress for approval that same day, has one purpose and one purpose only: to further consolidate power in his dictatorial hands and to essentially eradicate any political opposition or electoral mediation of his totalitarian decrees.
His proposed constitutional reform would reduce the number of senators and deputies in Congress and annihilate the sole institution that has diligently strived to instill democratic practices in a country with a questionable electoral past, the National Electoral Institute (INE).
By reshaping (read, gerrymandering) Mexico’s electoral landscape, which is currently based on 300 geographic districts, López Obrador intends to ensure that his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party cohorts will control virtually every aspect of political life in the country.
Rather than a combination of directly elected parliamentarians and plurinominal deputies (reflecting proportional representation of voters’ partisan divisions), under his proposed reform, all federal deputies would be elected from a list for each state.
Moreover, the number of legislators in the Chamber of Deputies would be slashed from 500 to 300, with each state being assigned a specific number of deputies in relation to its respective population.
Under this scheme, the candidates with the most votes in each state would be the representatives, a strategy that would favor the majority party in each state.
Morena currently governs 18 states and is the favorite to win at least four other in Mexico’s upcoming June elections.
Consequently, in the 22 (out of 32) states where Morena would have a majority, according to AMLO’s electoral proposal, the party would achieve 55 percent of all legislators.
And then there’s the Senate, which AMLO has proposed reducing from 128 legislators to just 96 by eliminating 32 plurinominals.
In this new Senate, Morena could have up to a 70-percent majority, thus allowing it to bulldoze through even constitutional reforms (which require a two-thirds majority).
AMLO’s culling of representatives would also affect local Congresses, which would lose between 15 and 45 deputies each, and even City Councils, where the number of aldermen would go down dramatically, again, favoring Morena.
But perhaps the most heinous aspect of AMLO’s proposed electoral reform would be the replacing of the INE with a so-called National Institute for Elections and Consultations (INEC), which would centralize all federal and local processes and put control squarely in the hands of Morena.
It would also cut the number of electoral councilors from 11 to seven, all of whom would be elected directly by a vote of the population, which would not only favor the preference of councilors promoted by the majority party, but would also almost certainly guarantee that the new INEC councilors would be schooled in the art of supporting Morena, not in democratic processes and electoral transparency.
AMLO has claimed that his electoral reform would generate “savings” of some 24 billion pesos, no doubt money that he would allocate to his pet projects and ineffective social programs without bothering to consult the public.
It is no coincidence that AMLO rolled out his new electoral reform bill just 10 days after his controversial and convoluted electricity reform bill (which would have prioritized state-run, carbon-based energy sources over privately owned alternatives, not to mention violating international treaties and contracts) was dashed by opposition legislators in the Chamber of Deputies on Easter Sunday, April 17.
It is no secret that AMLO does not accept defeat well; nor does he tolerate any opinions or views that do not mirror his own.
As former IFE President Luis Carlos Ugalde warned on Thursday, April 28, “López Obrador’s initiative could become a battering ram to attack the electoral body and in 2024 serve as a pretext for the president to ignore results if they are adverse.”
López Obrador, who fancies himself as a latter-day messiah, believes that his will should be done, regardless of such trivial obstacles as democracy, opposition voices and freedom of expression.
Fortunately, his electoral reform bill, which like his electricity reform bill, would represent a rewriting of the Mexican Constitution, and thus a two-thirds majority to pass, which he does not currently have in Congress.
Members of a united congressional opposition proved on Easter Day that, despite a slew of dirty tricks like intiminations, threats and even physical blockades set up to keep them from voting, they could prevent López Obrador from imposing his autocratic will, at least one this particular issue.
Let us hope that these opposition lawmakers can maintain that united front when it comes to the passing of this new reform bill.
Clearly, their own political existence depends on it, as well as the last vestiges of democracy in Mexico.