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In a move that many have labeled as a potentially fatal blow to the last remnants of democracy in Mexico, the Mexican Senate late Wednesday, Feb. 22, approved leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) controversial Plan B electoral law, which would essentially dismantle the country’s most important electoral body.

Coming just months before two important state elections (in Coahuila and the State of Mexico) and one year ahead of the next presidential election, the ruling, which many opposition leaders and judicial experts have deemed unconstitutional, would impede the National Electoral Institute (INE) from effectively overseeing the polling process and would give free rein to López Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party to operate untethered by nornal constitutional regulations.

The INE, which was crucial in eliminating one-party rule and moving Mexico toward real democracy two decades ago, has been in López Obrador’s crosshairs since he took office in December 2018.

Over the last four years, AMLO has consistently verbally attacked and financially hobbled the INE through repeated budget cuts and blatant efforts to nullify its powers.

The Morena-controlled Senate version of Plan B excluded a highly controversial clause that had previously been added by the lower house Chamber of Deputies that would have allowed two small parties aligned with Morena — the Green Party (PVEM) and Labor Party (PT) — to survive in perpetuity regardless of whether they won enough votes under Mexican electoral law to do so.

The bill, which will now pass to the president’s office to be signed into law, was approved with 72 votes in favor and 50 against.

Irate over its passage, opposition senators warned that Mexico’s political stability is at risk, calling Plan B the perpetration of “the worst authoritarian regression in the history of the republic.”

Under Plan B, the INE will face severe staff cuts and reduced autonomy, while losing any real ability to penalize politicians who violate the country’s electoral laws.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) issued a temporary suspension of the new law, at least in the case of the Coahuila and State of Mexico elections, even prior to its passage, although that decision was already being challenged by AMLO and Morena.

The SCJN, another favorite target of the president, has recently been flooded with challenges to Plan B, but even if the court overrules the new law, AMLO is likely to implement it, having ignored judicial decrees on other issues dear to his heart, such as the controversial Tren Maya tourist train.

If Plan B is not overturned, electoral officials have said that it will be difficult to conduct free and fair elections in Mexico, thus endangering the nation’s hard-fought democracy.


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