Mexicans decry threats to democracy after electoral overhaul

Juan Manuel Martinez remembers the times when he would vote in Mexico’s elections with no confidence that they have been being run pretty.

For many years, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, often known as the PRI, remained in energy by shopping for votes or stuffing poll packing containers. Election after election, the identical story repeated itself.

“No election was clean, democracy didn’t exist, the government both controlled the elections and was the referee, which isn’t right,” stated Martinez, a retired 70-year-old accountant. “We always knew that they were tricking us, that the candidate that was always going to win was from the PRI.”

Demonstrators in Mexico City wore pink, the colour of the nation’s electoral institute, and chanted, “You don’t touch the INE.”

(Alejandro Cegarra / Bloomberg through Getty Images)

That historical past motivated Martinez and greater than 100,000 others in Mexico City to march Sunday towards the main downsizing final week of the company that oversees Mexico’s elections, a measure that they are saying jeopardizes the nation’s democracy and will hurt the 2024 presidential race.

Crowds of individuals sporting pink — the colour of the National Electoral Institute, often known as the INE — tightly packed the principle sq. downtown. “You don’t touch the INE,” they chanted. One man carried a poster — wrapped in clear pink material — of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Other protests befell throughout Mexico.

Mexican lawmakers on Wednesday accepted the overhaul of the electoral institute, an impartial company that helped Mexico transition from one-party rule just a few many years in the past. The adjustments, backed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, drastically scale back the institute’s workers and autonomy and are anticipated to end in a problem earlier than the nation’s Supreme Court.

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The electoral institute says that the downsizing — often known as “Plan B” as a result of it follows an earlier, failed try at an overhaul — will get rid of the roles of hundreds of staffers who set up elections throughout the nation, together with figuring out spots for polling stations, verifying voting credentials and overseeing the tally. The adjustments additionally restrict the company’s capacity to self-discipline political candidates who violate marketing campaign spending guidelines.

The downsizing “diminishes accountability for politicians, which threatens the equity and transparency of the elections,” the electoral institute stated in a Twitter publish.

Passage of the measure has raised bipartisan issues within the United States. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rob Menendez (D-N.J.) launched an announcement warning that “returning Mexico to its dark past of presidentially controlled elections not only sets the clock back on its democracy, but also U.S.-Mexico relations.”

“In spite of his hope to be remembered as a democrat and champion for the country’s most vulnerable, President López Obrador’s ongoing efforts to undermine INE’s autonomy and independence will assuredly cement his legacy as just the opposite,” they stated.

A man holds chains in one hand and a sign in Spanish in the other

A demonstrator dressed as independence hero Miguel Hidalgo held an indication that reads “You don’t touch the INE” throughout the Mexico City march on Feb. 26, 2023.

(Fernando Llano / Associated Press)

The electoral institute has been credited with facilitating truthful elections in Mexico and permitting the nation to maneuver away from 71 years of one-party rule below the PRI.

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A 1996 reform that shielded the company — recognized then because the Federal Electoral Institute — from political interference created the circumstances for opposition social gathering candidate Vicente Fox to win the presidency in 2000.

López Obrador, chief of his Morena social gathering, has lengthy attacked the electoral institute although it oversaw the election that in 2018 swept him into workplace in a landslide. After he first ran for president in 2006 and misplaced by lower than 1% of the vote, he accused the company of being complicit in voter fraud.

The president, who took energy promising a radical transformation to fight corruption and inequality and has loved excessive approval rankings, denies that the reforms will put elections in danger. In December he stated that the company wants a extra austere finances “so that it can do more with less, like everyone.”

He sought to solid doubt on the motives of Sunday’s protesters, saying that they’re individuals who “in one way or another benefited from corruption.” He additionally tried to tie them to Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former high regulation enforcement official who final week was convicted of taking thousands and thousands of {dollars} in bribes from drug traffickers.

Huge crowds waving Mexico's green, white and red flag and pink banners are seen against a backdrop of buildings

Tens of hundreds of protesters tightly packed the Zócalo, or central sq., in downtown Mexico City.

(Fernando Llano / Associated Press)

“They are coming to say, ‘You can’t touch the INE,’ but also ‘you can’t touch Garcia Luna,’ and ultimately it’s ‘you can’t touch the corrupt and conservative regime,’” he advised reporters at a latest information convention. #Marchofthenarcos later trended on Twitter.

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The protest in Mexico City’s central sq., or Zócalo, included a speech by a former Mexican Supreme Court justice who stated he was assured that the present justices anticipated to listen to challenges to the reform will “preserve the democratic life of the country.”

Much of the group was made up of senior residents who recalled elections below one-party rule. When requested why she attended, an 81-year-old lady merely waved her hand: “I’m a democrat,” she stated.

Many stated that López Obrador — who can not run once more — is weakening the electoral institute in an try to preserve his social gathering in energy previous his six-year time period as president. An election might be jeopardized if the institute lacks the infrastructure to rely votes.

“He wants to destroy the freedom Mexico has to decide who votes. We are coming to defend democracy,” stated Fernando Hernandez Martinez, 45, a health club trainer who voted for López Obrador in 2018. “He brainwashed us, he said that he’s the messiah Mexico is waiting for and he tricked us.”

Sánchez is a researcher in The Times’ Mexico City bureau.