Is democracy in danger in Mexico? – DW – 02/20/2024

Four months before Mexico decides its political future and just two weeks before the start of the presidential campaign, last Sunday (02/18/2024) thousands of people gathered in the Zócalo of Mexico City in the center of the capital with the message “Our Protested. Democracy has not been touched.”

The rally, organized by various civil society groups, including some opposition leaders, sought to focus attention on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), whom they accused of wanting to “destroy” that democratic path. , on which he had taken them. presidency, and demanded “free voting” in the elections to be held on 2 June.

Today “we are facing a project of authoritarian regression,” said Lorenzo Córdova, former president of the National Electoral Institute (INE) and keynote speaker of the march, who also accused the current government of subjecting other institutions to “permanent oppression.” Was accused. , The demands include protecting INE as the main body in the country’s elections after AMLO’s reform efforts aimed to limit its autonomy, according to protesters.

But to what extent are these complaints warranted? Experts consulted by DW analyze this and other allegations at a critical moment for the country.

Is López Obrador leading an “authoritarian regression project”?

For some observers, this Sunday’s pink tide – the third of its kind since 2022 –, as well as Córdova’s own speech, reflect the fear of a sector of the population of a certain political “regression” in the country. Khemvirg Puente, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told DW that López Obrador’s own profile increases the threat because “he does it in a very transparent way.”

“He is making every possible effort to ensure the victory of his chosen successor, that is, to consolidate his movement as a hegemonic party like the PRI, as the PRI was for many years, and at the same time, “Reduce or diminish the power of the parties that have challenged them over time (PAN, PRD, and PRI)”, says Puente.

But such an “authoritarian regression project” is not shared by other experts. For Dr. Efrain Chávez, academic of the UNAM Legal Research Institute, “AMLO defends a nation project according to its principles and the opposition manages others (…) and it will be decided through elections which project be followed,'” he told DW. For Chávez, what is really at stake is that “the Mexican population stops believing in democracy, because that would lead to anarchy and violence.”

In the opinion of Dr. Angélica Cazarín, director of the Center for Political and Social Studies of the College of Tlaxcala (Mexico), AMLO’s party (Morena) will enter these elections “with more power than ever before in only 10 years of its life.” – With governments in 23 of 32 states — so “it may look like we are once again returning to the single and dominant party model in Mexico,” he says.

López Obrador has clashed several times with the INE since the beginning of his term in 2018.Image: Louis Baron/iPix Group/Picture Alliance

Is López Obrador looking to “undermine the capabilities and autonomy of INE”?

“President López Obrador’s attitude towards decentralized autonomous bodies has been very clear even before he became president: he considers them too expensive and yielding few concrete results for the benefit of the people,” university professor Alejandra López tells DW. ” Mexico. “However, these autonomous bodies, where the INE is based, have been historic achievements given Mexico’s past, where before 2000 there were no elections and these were state elections where the PRI always won,” he explains. .

Since the beginning of his tenure in 2018, López says, there have been conflicts with INE’s then-president Lorenzo Córdova, which also included budget cuts and limited resources for the institute. Subsequently, several initiatives took place in 2022 – which caused the most controversy – because, if approved, they would have limited the functions of the INE and “given Morena an advantage by allowing him to express his opinion on it” The electoral process during the morning conferences,” Lopez details.

In fact, among these initiatives, the transformation of the INE into INEC (National Institute of Elections and Consultation) stands out, as the sole body in charge of conducting elections in the states at the federal and local level. Cazarin says a unit that would be reduced from 11 to only 7 councillors, and would mean that public electoral bodies at the local level would disappear, although citizen consultation would be maintained.

For López, who is also director of the Consultancy on Gender and Government (CGG), “without a doubt eliminating or limiting the functions of the INE by reducing legislation and budget would signal a significant regression for Mexican democracy and Institutions that were built on the basis of civic trust.”

Does the current government subject other institutions to “permanent oppression”?

Puente also points out that López Obrador is using his “constitutional powers”, but he has “exceeded his use of presidential power, threatening those who think differently from him or attacking autonomous institutions like the INE.” Trying to take over,” he says.

For Cazarín, vote buying, abuse of public resources and electoral coercion are practices that continue in Mexico and that “distort democratic practice, distorting the results of elections,” he says.

Nevertheless, a balance of powers exists in the country, demonstrated by the fact that during this six-year term some presidential initiatives have not been approved or some have been invalidated, Puente emphasizes.


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