Senate Approves Controversial Electoral Reform
Mexican lawmakers have approved the so-called Plan B of the electoral reform, a controversial policy as it seeks to modify the institution that supervises the country's democratic processes. While the government stressed the reform will save financial resources, experts fear it will weaken Mexico’s democracy and make next year's presidential elections vulnerable.
On Feb. 22, 2023, the Senate approved the reform with 72 votes in favor and 50 against. The reform still needs to be signed by President López Obrador as a formality, since he was one of its main supporters. López Obrador emphasized that although he expects the bill will be challenged in the Supreme Court, it will survive the process since the laws were issued by the book.
According to the new law, the budget of the National Electoral Institute (INE) will be cut as well as the salaries of its workers, the financing of local electoral offices and the training of polling station officials. Plan B also eliminates INE’s budgetary autonomy, lays off 84.6% of the personnel of the National Electoral Service (SPEN) and reduces sanctions for candidates who do not declare their campaign expenses.
López Obrador and his supporters have criticized INE since 2006 when he narrowly lost the presidency to Felipe Calderón by 0.56 percent of the vote. He denounced the elections as fraudulent but the victory was still granted to Calderón. In addition, during his administration, López Obrador has criticized that the INE has cost taxpayers enormous amounts of money, has not managed resources well, pays very high salaries and has not been able to root out in its own ranks.
Plan B of the electoral reform had been approved in December 2022 by Congress. However, its enactment was suspended because Congress wanted to change the "eternal life clause," allowing for the transfer of votes between coalition parties. Following the vote, Alejandro Armenta, President, the MORENA Board of Directors, ordered to send Plan B without the clause so that it could be published in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF).
López Obrador’s party, MORENA, is so far the favorite in the 2024 presidential elections polls, as its opposition remains disorganized. This environment appears to provide little incentive to attack INE. However, Lorenzo Córdova, President Counselor, INE, said that the elections are at risk as the cutback of people will make it difficult to guarantee free elections.
Before the Senate's vote, Mexicans living in more than 100 cities in seven different countries were called upon to protest against the President's Plan B. The first protest in Mexico was on Nov. 13, 2022, when thousands gathered in cities across the country and Mexican embassies around the world to defend Mexico’s democratic institution. López Obrador said between 50,000 and 60,000 people joined the protest. Nonetheless, organizers estimate the number to be higher than 200,000; Reuters eyewitnesses thought the number to be higher than the government estimate, too.