Saturday, February 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mexico lawmakers approve López Obrador’s ‘Plan B’ to tanked electoral reform

The latest of President López Obrador’s contentious reforms played out in dramatic fashion this week, with opposition deputies walking out in protest and both sides decrying the other as traitors.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — The Mexico Chamber of Deputies pushed through a batch of reforms to the country’s federal electoral system early Wednesday morning after the president’s controversial original amendment failed to pass.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s desired constitutional reform to Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) did not receive the two-thirds supermajority vote necessary to pass, so he sent a ‘Plan B’ set of legislative reforms that only required a simple majority to be approved. His ruling Morena party and its allies passed the changes in a 267 to 221 vote, with no abstentions.

The failure of the constitutional reform was praised by members of the coalition of opposition parties — comprised of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizen’s Movement (MC) — who shouted what has become a rallying cry of the resistance to López Obrador’s electoral reform: “Don’t touch the INE.”

Then in a dramatic display of dissent, opposition deputies covered their mouths with facemasks reading, “Let Mexico speak,” before leaving the chamber in silence. 

The remaining deputies of Morena and its allies in the Labor Party, Green Party and New Alliance Party cried “Out with the traitors,” as they left, then held the vote on the president’s Plan B without them. It now heads to the Senate for approval.

The proposed reforms aim to extinguish two of the INE’s trusteeships totaling more than $50 million, prohibit the creation of new trusteeships and cut back on the number of executive positions in the institution. They also propose the creation of a National Electoral System by integrating the INE with local election committees, and establish that electoral advisers not earn higher salaries than López Obrador.

The reforms were lambasted by opposition deputies. 

“These initiatives are the product of resentment, hate and the lack of recognition of the electoral authorities,” said PAN deputy Marco Humberto Aguilar, who accused his colleagues across the aisle of not believing in democracy. “You only know how to obey,” he added, drawing the last word out like the bleating of a sheep. 

PRD deputy Miguel Ángel Torres promised to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, while PRI deputy Jaime Bueno Zertuche called the reform a “fraud to the Constitution and a betrayal of Mexico.”

Morena deputy and chair of the Committee on Political-Electoral Reform Graciela Sánchez Ortiz hailed the move, saying that it will strengthen democracy in Mexico “and guarantee the exercise of political-electoral human rights of the citizenry by restructuring the organization, administration and execution of resources of the federal and local electoral institutions.”

She then took a jab at her opponents, turning their words against them: “As you can see, we can touch the INE.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, INE President Lorenzo Córdova called the current state of Mexican electoral politics “momentous” and said that “hopefully this isn’t a moment of breaking up,” but rather one “of construction and solidification of that great political arrangement that allowed Mexico to stop being an authoritarian regime.”

Analysts have decried López Obrador’s politics as an attempt to make Morena the new hegemonic political regime in Mexico. 

“We’re talking about the rules of the democratic game, of the rules that contenders will be subjected to, in order to dispute power,” Córdova continued. “And history shows us that when consensus doesn’t prevail, when there’s majority rule, whether it be in the definition of the rules or of those who arbitrate the political competition, a potential problem is brewing.”

The success of the bill now depends on Senate majority leader and 2024 presidential hopeful Ricardo Monreal. Despite his leadership role in the Morena party, Monreal has not always fallen in line with the president’s initiatives. He garnered harsh criticism from his own cohort in September when he abstained from a vote to transfer López Obrador’s civilian National Guard to the army.

Still, the possibility seems likely, according to political analyst José Antonio Crespo, who said that the president’s Plan B, while not identical to his proposed constitutional reform, is similar in some aspects. It appears to have what it would take to achieve López Obrador’s overall goal for future elections in Mexico: “Morena will have new advantages,” Crespo said. 

The party does not have the best electoral track record. The INE has had to issue at least two orders to Morena’s presidential hopefuls to follow the country’s campaign laws, and the party's internal elections in July were fraught with violence and other irregularities. 

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...