Mexican Supreme Court Halts Plan B Implementation

Mexican Supreme Court Justice Javier Laynez. Photo: Google


Much to the chagrin of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who has, since he took office in December 2018, strived incessantly to disable and dismantle Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) — which singlehandedly managed to bring democracy to the country through establishing clear polling laws and transparent voting practices — the nation’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) on Friday, March 24, overturned his so-called Plan B to accomplish that goal.

Plan B, which was passed by the Mexican Congress late last month and signed into law by López Obrador almost immediately despite massive protests by hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, was the president’s way of circumventing the non-passage of a previous proposal to dispense with the INE altogether and put control and supervision of all elections under his office.

That proposal did not pass Congress because, since it would have constituted a change to the Mexican Constitution, it would have required a two-thirds majority vote for approval.

Since Plan B did not technically represent modifications to the Mexican Constitution, it passed in both Mexican legislative houses, where AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party dominates.

But on Friday, Mexico’s Supreme Court (whose chief justice has been a frequent target of the president for verbal insults and unfounded — and unsubstantiated — allegations of corruption) ordered the indefinite suspension of Plan B on the grounds that it violates the constitution.

Not surprisingly, López Obrador reacted by lashing out against the SCJN, calling it a “mafia” or conservative hooligans, this just days after he watched a band of his followers burn a giant effigy of the court’s chief justice, Norma Piña Hernández, in a massive pro-AMLO rally in Mexico City’s central Zócalo.

With his ruling, Supreme Court Justice Javier Laynez in effect deactivated the conditions of AMLO’s Plan B, which would have dismantled the INE’s powers to regulate and supervise voting and campaigning practices nationwide, by granting a suspension of its implementation until a final decision can be reached by the entire SCJN.

“The application of Plan B is therefore suspended indefinitely, and the INE will be able to continue operating as it has before the official reform,” Laynez said in a written statement.

That suspension will be maintained throughout the time it takes for the Supreme Court to process legal and constitutional challenges to Plan B, expected to be deliberated over and determined before the court’s current session ends on July 15.

AMLO and Congress could still challenge the suspension, but the processing of that appeal will take at least several weeks.

One of the points in Plan B that the SCJN will surely review has to do with a problem of origin: Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved the president’s initiative for electoral reform verbatim as he presented it, the very same day it was presented, which is contrary to multiple precedents within the court on the minimum requirements that a legislative procedure must be met, especially in a case of a fundamental reform of the electoral system.

But to invalidate Plan B, the court will require at least eight of the 11 votes of its members.

Should that overwhelming majority vote not be obtained, the specific content of the reform would be analyzed item by item to determine if the changes to Mexico’s electoral system could endanger the quality of democratic processes.


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