Photo courtesy of Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times
The Andrés Manuel López Obrador [AMLO] administration is receiving backlash for the proposal to reform the National Electoral Institute [INE]. The proposal is up for a congressional vote in December and could potentially alter the course of elections in Mexico. Many critics view the reform as a threat to democracy. The following sections will explore the proposed reform, the backlash, and the potential future of INE.
The INE Reform
The INE is an autonomous institution responsible for overseeing and managing federal and local elections in Mexico. INE was enacted in 2014 and expanded on the Federal Electoral Institute [IFE]. According to the ACE Project, “it expanded [on the] commitment to actively display an international cooperation policy aimed at [promoting] democratic principles and practices in the field of elections.”
The INE reform was initially proposed back in April 2022. The purpose of the reform was to eliminate elitism in elections. However, according to CNN Español, AMLO “has argued that this initiative responds to political austerity and the citizen demand to create an organic [electoral system] that guarantees legitimacy, without the possibility of committing fraud.”
Furthermore, AMLO’s hyperfixation on fraud draws goes to the election results of 2006, which secured Felipe Calderón of the PAN party the presidency. According to Jorge Ramos, “The referee in those elections was the Federal Electoral Institute [INE], which made Calderón the winner by a difference of barely .58 percentage points - 243,000 votes. But AMLO never accepted those results.” AMLO further blamed INE for his presidential loss in 2012.
Nevertheless, the proposal would completely alter the function of INE. This includes:
- Reducing the number of representatives and senators
- Reducing the funding of political parties
- Reducing the cost of elections
- Implementing electronic voting systems in-and-out the country
According to PBS, “the number of legislators would [be reduced] from 500 to 300 and senators from 128 to 98 by eliminating at-large lawmakers [which are not directly elected by voters].” Moreover, other electoral aspects of INE would be determined by a public vote.
According to AXIOS, “[AMLO] wants to eliminate all of the INE's state-level electoral offices to [organize a single organization] for all elections. He also wants to allow the public, instead of the special committee, to choose the electoral commissioners from a list vetted by the president.” The reform would also allow voter rolls, which could lead to meddling.
Nevertheless, the reform was presented to congress, which further intensified power dynamics considering that Morena [AMLO’s party] currently holds the majority. As a result, many constituents have demanded a vote against the reform upon growing concerns for democracy.
On November 13, nearly 200,000 people marched on the streets of Mexico City in defense of the INE. Former INE President, José Woldenberg, was a prominent voice at the march. “We are gathered…to defend the electoral system that several generations of Mexicans built. [INE] has allowed the coexistence and competition of plurality and political stability, the peaceful transmission of public powers, and the expansion of freedoms,” Woldenberg stated.
This march has posed a challenge for Morena: making it difficult to garner support for the next election cycle. According to PBS, “the massive turnout was a strong rebuke of the president’s assertion that criticism comes only from a relatively small, elite opposition.” As a result, AMLO responded quickly. AMLO led a support march two weeks after November 13, claiming to simply celebrate Morena’s success and dismissing any form of criticism as racist and insulting.
The Future of INE
The INE reform has been viewed as a final effort to secure Morena’s power considering that AMLO’s administration ends in 2024. Many critics believe the reform would guarantee AMLO’s influence when out of office.
Even so, the support of the INE reform is evident. According to the CNCS, 52 percent of Mexicans are in favor of substituting INE for INEC. Still, Morena does not have enough votes for the reform to pass, as reported by PBS. Thus, the future of INE and democracy remains uncertain until a congressional vote in December.
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