(Bloomberg) -- Thousands of people marched in Mexico City on Sunday to protest the government’s plan to overhaul the nation’s electoral system.
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In an increasingly bitter fight, protesters say the measure, headed soon for a vote in Congress, would be a blow to free elections in Mexico and amount to a broader power grab by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. They defended the role of the National Electoral Institute, known as the INE, an independent body that oversees elections.
“We’re united here with a clear and transcendent objective: to defend the electoral system that several generations of Mexicans constructed,” said Jose Woldenberg, a former head of the election oversight body at the time when effective one-party rule ended in Mexico two decades ago.
Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, proposed the measures last spring. He said the INE had become too partisan and that the cost of elections had become too high. He wants electoral regulators to be chosen by direct vote and to eliminate state-level election agencies in favor of a federal one.
The overhaul would change the process for selecting both the regulators of the INE and the judges who sit on the electoral court. The bill also includes a dramatic reduction in the number of congressional representatives and a cut in financing for political parties.
“We’re trying to reduce the cost of elections,” Lopez Obrador said on Friday. “We want electoral frauds to end, and for there to be a guarantee that votes will be respected in clean and free elections.”
Sunday’s march on a major avenue in Mexico’s capital was filled with protesters carrying pink signs in favor of the INE. The rally was organized by political groups largely opposed to AMLO.
“As has been the case for months, even years, lies and disqualification have been key parts of the onslaught against the Mexican democracy and our electoral system,” Lorenzo Cordova, the INE’s current president, said in a video on Saturday. He didn’t attend the rally on Sunday.
While the local government put the attendance between 10,000 and 12,000 people, opposition leaders said the numbers were higher.
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