By MARK LORENZANA
Deputies of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) on Tuesday, Oct. 25, began the legislative process for the electoral reform that seeks to eliminate Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE), which would be replaced by another smaller body whose councilors would be elected by popular vote at the polls.
The proposal seeks to shrink the Electoral Court, apply financial cuts to electoral bodies and eliminate plurinominal legislators, which would essentially strengthen the presence of Morena and weaken its political opponents.
Ignacio Mier, Morena’s legislative bench leader, promoted in a session of the United Commissions of Constitutional Points, Political-Electoral Reform and the Interior, the creation of a working group with 21 members, which has already been approved.
Mier, on Sunday, Oct. 16, announced that a debate would begin, which would tackle an electoral reform that would seek modifications to both the Mexican Constitution and secondary laws.
Some members of the legislative benches of the opposition bloc, the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) — specifically PAN coordinator Jorge Moreno — moved to negotiate an eventual reform, on the condition that they “will not accept reforms that affect the powers of the electoral authorities.”
Moreno stressed that his party “will never attack the powers of the electoral authorities.”
Citizen’s Movement Party (MC) Deputy Salvador Caro, for his part, said he believes that Morena was moving swiftly with the electoral reform “in the middle of the FIFA World Cup to hide how dangerous it really is.” Caro added that “the Citizen’s Movement Party and the Mexican people are not going to participate in this farce.”
“This harmful initiative is a call for the Mexican people to mobilize, to fight against it,” Caro said. “This electoral reform is a project of the president of the republic that only seeks to institutionalize the mechanism to foist one of his puppets to the presidency.”
The Washington Post, in a strongly worded opinion piece, likewise criticized the electoral reform.
“What the ruling party, Morena, wants to do in Mexico is not an electoral reform, it is a political reform: It wants to modify the core strings of the political regime,” read the opinion piece. “The proposal aims, on the one hand, to transform the way in which democratic representation is integrated and, on the other, the institutions responsible for organizing and conducting electoral processes.”
Hours after the discussion of the electoral reform in the Chamber of Deputies, Lorenzo Córdova, head of the INE, said he believes that Morena’s initiative will not improve the democratic system, but rather is aimed at keeping the status quo.
“Electoral reform is not always a mechanism to improve what you have, it can also be a mechanism for anti-democratic regression,” Córdova said.
Likewise, on Monday, Oct. 24, the Venice Commission condemned the planned electoral reform, an opinion it voiced out following the organization’s review of the situation at the request of the INE.
“Modifying a system that works well in general and that enjoys the trust of the different parties after several electoral cycles and years of democratic evolution inevitably runs the risk of that trust being shaken,” read the Venice Commission’s statement.
Political commentator F. Bartolome, of Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, wrote that “the intention of (López Obrador’s) 4T to carry out an electoral reform is so dangerous and regressive that it shows from here to Strasbourg, and that the Commission for Democracy of the Council of Europe made an analysis and raised several red flags before the initiative.”
Bartolome added: “The reform that Andrés Manuel López Obrador is so enthusiastic about is seen by the Venice Commission as a danger, since it does not provide sufficient guarantees of the independence and impartiality of the new INE and the Electoral Tribunal. Among other defects, the organization warns that the idea of electing magistrates and councilors by ‘popular vote’ undermines impartiality, weakens two technical bodies and affects, especially, the representation of all sectors of society.”
In a recent national survey conducted by Mexican business-focused daily El Financiero, 68 percent of the people interviewed approve of the work carried out by the INE in organizing elections, which means that the autonomous, public electoral agency has the support of two-thirds of the country’s citizenry.