PULSE NEWS MEXICO
As the Mexican Chamber of Deputies began its new legislative period on Wednesday, Feb. 1, electoral counselor for Mexico’s autonomous electoral organization the National Electoral Institute (INE) Ciro Murayama Rendón released an editorial in daily Mexican newspaper Reforma analyzing the potential consequences of the legislative approval of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) controversial “Plan B” electoral reform, which is anticipated to reach approval toward the beginning of the new legislative period.
According to Murayama’s Reforma column, there are three major ways in which Plan B could nullify Mexico’s democracy and diminish the impartiality of its electoral process.
“First, Plan B would prevent the territorial work of the electoral authority. Today the INE is structured into 300 District Executive Boards, one for each electoral district established by the Mexican Constitution. Each board is made up of five officials from the electoral professional service who came to their posts through public elections and who undergo training and permanent evaluation. These teams update the electoral register and cartography on a daily basis and make genuine elections possible in every corner of the country,” wrote Murayama.
“Plan B simply disappears those 300 district boards and replaces them with auxiliary offices for a single official,” added the INE electoral consular to his first point. “But, see the seriousness: article 61, numeral 4, subparagraph b of the new law says: ‘in metropolitan areas that cover more than one district there will be an auxiliary office.’ In the metropolitan area of the Valley of Mexico, where there are 52 electoral districts, there would be only one office and one official to make it possible for more than 16 and a half million voters to vote. Just impossible. Something similar would happen in the metropolitan areas of Monterrey, Guadalajara, Puebla, at least. What purpose motivates preventing the organization of elections?”
Next, Murayama pointed to the efficacy of the INE’s electoral monitoring system, which he says will be greatly impacted by Plan B’s eventual implementation.
“One of the guarantees of Mexico’s political parties parties is to monitor the legality of the voting consists by having representatives in each polling place,” explained Murayama. “Since the INE installs more than 160,000 polling stations and each party accredits two representatives, we are talking about more than 2,240,000 party representatives. Each representative must be duly accredited by the INE in each box. This arduous work takes several days: the current law dictates that the parties register their representatives 13 days before election day and can replace them 10 days before the vote, and this has never generated problems.”
“But Plan B intends that this registration be done 48 hours before the vote and that the representatives can be changed the day before the elections,” the INE counselor went on to say. “This implies that the polling station presidents will not know who the accredited representatives are well. If a representative is denied entry to a polling place, all that voting can be annulled; if someone who is not an accredited representative is allowed to enter, the polling place is also canceled (art. 75 of the General Law of the System of Means of Challenge in Electoral Matters). Why induce the nullity of the boxes?”
For his final point, Murayama examined the conclusion of the voting process, which formerly saw the votes returned to INE offices for an official count – a series of events set to be turned on its head by Plan B’s provisions that Murayama says will “hinder the return of the electoral packages to the INE.”
“At the end of the work in each polling place, the electoral package is closed and must be returned to one of the 300 INE offices so that these votes are included in the district count,” said Murayama. “In the task of moving the packages on election night, the presidents of each polling place can be assisted by the Electoral Assistant Trainers (CAEs) of the INE. In the 2021 federal election, 55 percent of the electoral packages were delivered by the CAEs. But the reform repeals subsection f, numeral 2, of article 303 of the Electoral Law that allowed assistance in the transfer of packages. Seriously, do you want more than half of the packages not to return and their votes not to be properly counted?”
After posing his questions about the validity of the Plan B electoral reform, Murayama came to a simple conclusion: “the consequence of Plan B, as can be seen, can cause a political crisis just as serious as it is unnecessary.”