Mexicans March En Masse Against President’s Electoral Reform

(Bloomberg) -- Mexicans marched Sunday against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s overhaul of the electoral system, with demonstrators nationwide criticizing the reforms ahead of next year’s elections.

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Thousands of marchers wearing pink and white, the colors of the electoral body, filled Mexico City’s central square, the Zocalo, according to images broadcast on Milenio TV, which said that people were protesting in more than 100 cities. Mexicans abroad protested as well, including in Madrid. Protesters carried signs with the message, “Do not touch my vote.”

Lopez Obrador’s changes seek to reduce funding for the INE, as the electoral body is known, and trim its workforce. The regulator and electoral court are untrustworthy, the president, known as AMLO, has said. The Senate passed the electoral bill on Feb. 22 after the government failed to achieve a broader overhaul that required changing the constitution. The original proposal included changes to how electoral authorities are chosen.

“Here in this Zocalo there is hope,” Beatriz Pages, a protest organizer and a former lawmaker for the PRI party, said in a speech at the Mexico City protest broadcast on Milenio TV. Pages called on demonstrators to join her in “a long, long battle for democracy.”

Senator Josefina Vazquez Mota and lower house lawmaker Santiago Creel, both of the opposition PAN party, posted photos of themselves at the Mexico City demonstration on their respective Twitter accounts.

The massive anti-government march, the second in over three months, comes as AMLO intensifies his clashes with the opposition as both sides define their positions ahead of the July 2024 presidential election. Lopez Obrador remains widely popular, with an El Financiero poll early this month saying 54% of Mexicans approve of his job in office while 45% reject it.

The opposition, which denounces the proposed changes as an attempt to tamper with next year’s elections, will ask the Supreme Court to annul the legislation, arguing that it requires a two-thirds majority in congress to change the constitution.

Late on Sunday, the Biden administration weighed in, with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols saying in a tweet that the US “supports independent, well-resourced electoral institutions that strengthen democratic processes and the rule of law.”

While organizers estimated half a million people marched in the Mexican capital on Sunday, authorities for the local government, controlled by AMLO’s party, put that number closer to 90,000, according to newspaper El Universal.

(Updates with US government comment in eighth paragraph, attendance estimates on last paragraph.)

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