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Home World News Washington Post World News President of Mexico proposes drastic reforms

President of Mexico proposes drastic reforms

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MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government on Thursday proposed a major overhaul of the country’s electoral system and the agency that oversees it — one of the country’s most trusted institutions. It would reduce the size of Congress and the state legislature, while allowing the Federal Electoral Council to be elected by the voters, potentially adding a higher degree of politics to what was an independent body.

The proposal would also reduce federal funding for political parties and spending on elections in general — a repeated target of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has often argued with the National Electoral Institute.

The proposals by López Obrador and several members of his cabinet would create a new federal electoral authority to replace the institute, and eliminate similar state-level agencies.

“It is not the intention to impose one party,” said López Obrador. “What we want is for there to be a real democracy in the country and for electoral fraud to stop… to allow a real democratic state to be established.”

But the road to what will certainly be a controversial reform package would be difficult. López Obrador’s party and its allies do not have the two-thirds majority in Congress needed to pass constitutional amendments. The main opposition parties have already said they are against such changes.

Another major constitutional reform proposed by the president to shake up the energy sector last week fell far short of the necessary votes.

López Obrador seemed to recognize that the proposed reforms are unlikely to be implemented. He called on Congress to study every element of the proposal, notify the public and then decide. He said it was his responsibility to present it “even if it is not approved.”

López Obrador has been fighting election authorities for decades. He considers himself a victim of election fraud on several occasions, although it was the National Electoral Institute that confirmed his landslide presidential victory in 2018.

The proposals would reduce the number of lawmakers in the lower house of Congress from 500 to 300 and senators from 128 to 96 by eliminating major lawmakers. They are not directly elected by voters, but appear on party lists and receive seats based on their party’s share of the vote.

Political parties would only get public money during campaigns rather than annually, as they are now. Rules against officials and agencies promoting their programs during campaign seasons would be relaxed. In fact, many government websites are currently being deactivated during campaigns.

López Obrador’s government says the changes would save Mexico $1.2 billion and allow citizens to select honest people to hold elections.

The idea of ​​a popular vote for election officials has been floated before by academics who argue that the people in those positions should be experts and say it could lead to political bias in the way elections are conducted.

“To think that an electorate so diverse and so ill-informed would have the ability to select electoral council members and magistrates is sheer demagogy and pretension,” said Clara Jusidman, founder of the non-governmental organization Citizen Initiative and Social Development. She said those in power would send their supporters to vote for whoever they wanted.

Several of the proposals would reverse or ease reforms that helped Mexico break free from one-party rule that lasted from 1929 to 2000.

General lawmakers were created to give smaller parties representation in Congress — largely symbolic at first — at a time when the Institutional Revolutionary Party had an iron grip on elections and rarely recognized opposition victories.

The Independent Electoral Office was established in the 1990s through a series of reforms following public outcry over alleged fraud in the 1988 presidential election, which – like previous votes – had been conducted by the Federal Department of the Interior.

This led to a victory for the opposition party in the 2000 presidential election.



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