Mexicans Protest Electoral Reform. “Mexican electoral democracy is at risk,” said protestors. This Sunday, November 13, 2022, Mexicans across the country marched in defense of the INE seeking to stop a controversial proposal to reform the National Electoral Institute (INE). Organizers estimate that more than 200,000 people marched on Paseo de la Reforma against the electoral reform that the Chamber of Deputies will discuss starting next week.
Confirmado. Clarito se ven las 10,000 a 12,000 personas nada más.
— Saskia Niño d Rivera Cover (@saskianino) November 13, 2022
A Controversial Reform
In April, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) presented an initiative to reform the National Electoral Institute (INE), the autonomous body that organizes elections in Mexico. In its place, he proposes to create the National Institute of Elections and Consultations (INEC).
The main arguments of the Mexican government to promote its reform are the lack of transparency in the electoral processes organized by the INE, as well as their high costs.
AMLO’s Proposed Reform
AMLO’s electoral reform initiative includes the creation of the INEC and a reduction in spending on political parties. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on April 28, he would send the constitutional reform initiative on electoral matters to the Chamber of Deputies, with the purpose “to guarantee clean and free elections; the full application of democracy so that citizens elect their representatives and seek the participation of all Mexicans,” announced AMLO’s Sala de Prensa.
“That we leave behind once and for all, the history of fraud. That is our purpose. (…) There is no intention of imposing a single party. What we want is for there to be an authentic democracy in the country, for electoral fraud to end, for the people to freely choose their representatives,” defended AMLO.
During the morning press conference, the Secretary of the Interior, Adán Augusto López Hernández, explained that the Executive Branch’s proposal includes:
- Reduction in the number of plurinominal deputies and senators.
- Reduction of financing to political parties.
- Reducing the cost of elections.
- Implementation of electronic voting inside and outside the country.
“The electoral processes in the country, attending to a citizen’s claim, will cease to be the most expensive in the world and there will be modern procedures so that democratic life is finally established, normalized with the direct participation of citizens,” he emphasized.
The head of the National Customs Agency, Horacio Duarte Olivares, explained that the changes to the legislation are being sought through 18 constitutional articles and 7 transitory ones.
He stressed that, if approved, they will represent an approximate saving of 24 billion pesos, based on the calculations of current spending.
“The aim is basically to make democracy cheaper in our country; it is an old demand from the people that money be stopped being spent on electoral processes and the money that can be saved be allocated to social issues, infrastructure and education,” he said.
Based on the reform of the law, the National Institute of Elections and Consultations (INEC) will be created, made up of citizens nominated by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers, which will be directly elected by the people of Mexico on the first Sunday of August.
In substitution of the current electoral body, this new model projects a reduction of the INE councilors —currently 11— to seven directly.
The head of the National Customs Agency explained that the proposal promotes the federalization of the elections so that the Local Electoral Public Organizations (OPLEs) disappear, as well as the local electoral courts.
The Chamber of Senators will be reduced to 96 representatives and, in the case of the Chamber of Deputies, it is expected to go from 500 to 300 members.
“It is worth noting that reducing 200 deputies in the Congress of the Union is a fundamental advance, obviously maintaining the plurality that the country requires,” he said.
In the local Congresses there will also be a decrease; a minimum range of 15 and a maximum of 45 local deputies will be established based on the number of the population of the states.
This proposal contemplates the reduction of members of the municipalities by establishing a limit of up to nine aldermen in proportion to the population of each municipality.
It will eliminate ordinary public financing of national and local political parties; There will also be a reduction in radio and television electoral time.
It will be proposed that citizen participation be 33 percent in the Mandate Revocation consultation so that it is binding.
A single legislation on electoral matters will be created, that is, the existence of a single normative instrument.
The head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Pablo Gómez Álvarez, said that this model will give the country a secure electoral system that respects voting and guarantees honesty and legality.
“We are in the effective fight against the purchase of suffrage, but a new reform is necessary to ensure that no government, no company and no economic power can buy votes, nor use illicit instruments to bias the popular will,” he said.
Changing Mexico’s Electoral System
Arturo Sánchez, a professor at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, told DW that “the Mexican electoral system is very rigid and expensive.” However, he emphasizes that, through the electoral reform and budget cuts to the INE, the ruling party, Morena, would eliminate several important institutions and concentrate the electoral organization in a single body. “The savings could also mean the loss of efficiency,” writes DW.
The former counselor of the INE criticized the intention to take away from this institution the elaboration of the electoral register and leave its control in the hands of the ruling party. Likewise, he explains that, by closing the INE offices in the country’s 300 electoral districts, the experience and knowledge of the professionals who work there will automatically be lost. In his proposal, AMLO suggests that, every three years, temporary workers be hired to organize the electoral processes.
In response to the government initiative, this Sunday, November 13, more than 50 Mexican associations marched in 26 cities in the country in defense of the National Electoral Institute.
“While AMLO affirms that only the INE is going to be transformed, another sector of the citizenry believes that it will be replaced by an institution that, far from being strengthened, will be weakened, Francisco Burgoa, a constitutional lawyer and professor at UNAM,” told DW.
“The Mexican electoral system, although it is not perfect, it is perfectible, and if there is a need for it to be modified, it should be done with a broad consultation and citizen participation in an Open Parliament. Is it too much to ask that it be done in the year 2025 or 2026? Doing it in these months would be a big mistake,” the constitutional lawyer said to DW.
The President Councilor of the National Electoral Institute (INE), Lorenzo Córdova, thanked the enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated in Mexico in defense of “our democracy and our electoral system, against the risks of anti-democratic regression proposed by the electoral reform of the government.”
¡Gracias a todas y todos quienes desde todas las trincheras ciudadanas defienden a nuestra democracia y a nuestro sistema electoral! pic.twitter.com/ANBZc88dgv
— Lorenzo Córdova V. (@lorenzocordovav) November 13, 2022
On Twitter, Córdova Vianello explained that he is in Mexico, but that the councilors decided not to attend the march so that the free will of citizens would not be disqualified for protecting democratic gains. The electoral official stressed that, over the years, democracy was built by plural voices and civic struggles against the hegemonic party and electoral fraud.
— Jorge E. Cervantes .·. (@jorcervan) November 13, 2022
What do those who support the reform say?
For their part, both the president of Mexico and politicians and citizens who approve of reforming the INE state that, in its current form, the electoral institute is an extensive structure that consumes resources in excess. Proponents of the reform say the change is an opportunity to save funds and prevent fraud.
At the Monumento a la Revolución, Jose Woldemberg called on citizens to defend democracy and reject the electoral political reform of the federal Executive.
He stressed that the democratization process has been naturalized for three decades and that “although we do not live in a democratic paradise, much of this is thanks to the consolidation of the INE.”
“Mexico cannot return to an electoral institution aligned with the Government,” he said before the thousands of citizens concentrated in the Plaza de la República.
Dr. Soledad Quartucci is the founder and CEO of Latina Republic, a 501(C)3 California-based nonprofit organization. Latina Republic is committed to improving the diversity and professional development of storytellers in the media industry as representation matters and affects the stories we tell. Latina Republic makes space for and empowers unheard voices and trains the next generation of leaders in the U.S.