HomePoliticsMexico's president channels Trump as he targets his country's electoral system

Mexico’s president channels Trump as he targets his country’s electoral system

Canadians have gotten used to a sure politician south of the border who has a behavior of solely accepting election outcomes when he wins, who invitations his followers to put siege to the capital when he loses, and who seeks to exchange impartial election officers with individuals loyal to him.

In reality, there are two such leaders on the continent. One simply noticed his status throughout the Republican Party take a beating within the U.S. midterm elections. The different is Andrés Manuel López Obrador — nonetheless using excessive as elected president of Mexico.

Donald Trump failed completely this month to undermine the U.S. electoral system from the skin. But Lopez Obrador — higher know in his nation as AMLO — is in a far stronger place as a sitting president with Mexico’s congress on his facet, and he has set his sights on dismantling the country’s impartial elections authority.

An sudden kinship

Speaking in New York City this week, former U.S. president Barack Obama warned that “the menace to democracy would not all the time run alongside a conservative/liberal, left/proper axis. This has nothing to do with conventional partisan strains or coverage preferences. What we’re seeing, what’s being challenged, are the foundational ideas of democracy itself.”

Obama may have been describing the curious affinity between Donald Trump and AMLO, who inhabit totally different ends of the left-right spectrum however who share an inclination to problem ideas of free elections and declare electoral establishments to be corrupt.

Then-U.S. president Donald Trump speaks subsequent to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier than signing a joint declaration within the Rose Garden on the White House on July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Trump has referred to AMLO as a “socialist” but additionally a “good man,” a “nice gentleman” and a “pal of mine.” On Tuesday, AMLO appeared to sympathize with Trump’s present struggles: “He’s a capitalist and he’s not excellent, however he’s a superb individual and I respect him.”

Both males have used the language of “solely I can repair it” to explain their missions to weed out the supposed “deep state” actors they declare are flouting the true will of the individuals. In AMLO’s case, the deep state is embodied by Mexico’s National Electoral Institute, the country’s equal of Elections Canada, recognized by its Spanish-language acronym INE.

‘Hands off the INE’

This weekend, Mexico City and two dozen regional centres noticed massive protests underneath the slogan “Hands off the INE.” The protests introduced tons of of 1000’s of Mexicans into the streets — the most important well-liked problem AMLO has confronted since profitable workplace in 2018.

AMLO dismissed the marchers’ considerations concerning the INE as “simply an excuse.”

“Those who marched yesterday did it as a result of they’re in opposition to the transformation that’s happening on this nation,” he stated at his morning information convention. “They did it in favour of corruption. They did it in favour of racism.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed photographs of the ‘Hands off the INE’ protest throughout his every day press convention on the National Palace in Mexico City on Nov. 14, 2022. He accused the marchers of supporting “corruption.” (AP)

The INE, beforehand known as the Federal Electoral Institute, started life in 1990 initially of Mexico’s transition away from one-party rule.

The INE labored to vary a political system that for seven a long time supplied solely a simulacrum of democracy. And it succeeded: the previous three elections have seen every of Mexico’s three principal events win workplace in flip, with harmonious transfers of energy every time.

AMLO has a historical past of poor relations with, and allegations in opposition to, the INE.

During the Nineties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution, of which AMLO was a member, loved a number of victories on the state degree. But AMLO misplaced on the 2 events he ran for governor in his personal state of Tabasco, and on each events he claimed fraud — a sample he would repeat all through his political profession.

AMLO cries foul

In 2000, AMLO was elected mayor of Mexico City, a job he held with appreciable success and excessive approval scores. That left him able to mount a presidential marketing campaign in 2006 which noticed him run neck-and-neck in opposition to Felipe Calderón of the centre-right National Action Party.

When the federal election authority declared Calderón had prevailed by 1 / 4 of one million votes (0.58 per cent of the overall) in an election that European Union observers declared to be truthful, AMLO known as on his supporters to arrange a everlasting protest camp within the centre of Mexico City. That blockade remained in place for 48 days, inflicting severe monetary losses within the metropolis.

In 2006, AMLO’s known as on his supporters to occupy the Zocalo, the principle sq. of Mexico City, to protest what he claimed was electoral fraud denying him the presidency. (Gisela Ishihara )

AMLO continued to be a fixture on the Mexican political scene till the celebrities lastly aligned for him with a brand new occasion of his personal creation — MORENA — 4 years in the past.

“The nice paradox,” former Mexican ambassador to Washington Arturo Sarukhan informed CBC News, “is that Lopez Obrador himself is president immediately in Mexico thanks to those establishments that have been created over the previous two or three a long time in Mexico, and which allowed for electoral processes to be run cleanly, pretty, transparently.”

Other nations drawn into dispute

AMLO is proposing to eradicate the INE and substitute it with a brand new physique over which he would have appreciable management. The seven people who would run the brand new elections company — people AMLO has stated could be chosen by “the individuals” in some unspecified manner — would come from a bunch of 60 nominees.

Twenty of these nominees could be chosen by the manager (managed by AMLO), 20 could be chosen by congress and the senate, and the remaining 20 could be picked by the judiciary.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden are anticipated to journey to Mexico subsequent month for the standard “Three Amigos” summit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pose for a photograph earlier than a gathering on November 18, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Although Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly met together with her Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard this week on the G20, threats to the independence of Mexico’s election physique weren’t among the many matters they mentioned.

But the U.S. authorities has been drawn into the fray.

“Independent establishments freed from political affect are a cornerstone of democracy, and non-partisan electoral establishments specifically make sure that all voices are heard in basic democratic processes,” stated a press release from the U.S. State Department.

The Russian Embassy in Mexico City, desperate to curry favour with a Mexican president who has described Vladimir Putin as “a pal,” subsequently denounced “one other intervention in Mexico’s inside affairs by the federal government of the United States.

“This time, the representatives of a ‘free democracy’ have determined to advise Mexico on one of the simplest ways to hold out electoral reform,” the embassy stated in a media assertion.

Also talking out on the proposed modifications is the European Union, which instructed its Venice Commission of constitutional specialists to take a look at the proposed modifications.

“This reform, if adopted, will seriously change the electoral system in Mexico and the administration of its electoral course of,” they concluded.

“Previously all constitutional electoral reforms had been proposed by the opposition. This is the primary time that the president, whose political supporters have the bulk within the Congress, initiates such bold constitutional modifications, which is able to considerably have an effect on the subsequent elections to happen in 2024.”

The fee stated the reform legislation “ought to be reconsidered as it’s not in step with the worldwide requirements and greatest practices within the electoral subject.”

The ‘Fourth Transformation’

AMLO doesn’t see himself as merely one other in an extended line of presidential directors, however reasonably as a historic determine whose arrival has inaugurated what he calls the “Fourth Transformation” of Mexico (the primary three being the War of Independence begun in 1810, the reforms of Benito Juarez within the mid-Nineteenth century, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910). 

That grandiose imaginative and prescient, mixed with his historical past of disputing election outcomes, leads some Mexicans to concern what AMLO would possibly do as he approaches the top of his six-year time period.

Some of his critics see his plan to abolish Mexico’s impartial election authority as a part of a plan to clean the trail of an anointed successor, or maybe even to attempt to cling on to energy himself — regardless that Mexico’s structure strictly forbids a second run for workplace.

AMLO has denied any such intent, saying that the INE is “corrupt” and he merely needs to wash it up whereas streamlining the system for electing the Mexican congress.

‘Return to the previous’

At the weekend’s mass rally at Mexico City’s Angel of Independence monument, former head of INE José Woldenberg reminded the gang how the impartial authority had reworked Mexico because the Nineteen Seventies. 

“As a rustic, we have been capable of construct a budding democracy. We left behind the nation of just one occasion, of oppressive presidentialism, of elections with out actual choices or competitors,” he stated.

“I need to name your consideration to at least one reality: harmonious, constitutional switch of presidential energy occurred, for the primary time in Mexico, because of that democratizing course of. In nearly 200 years of impartial life, our nation had by no means achieved it.

“Mexico can’t return to an electoral establishment aligned with the federal government, incapable of guaranteeing impartiality in the entire electoral course of. Our nation would not need to return to the previous.”

AMLO’s supporters do not seem to acknowledge the progress of the previous 30 years, stated Sarukhan.

“It’s like the talk between creationists and evolutionists. Many Mexicans, together with yours actually, imagine that democracy has been slowly evolving in Mexico over the previous a long time,” he informed CBC News. “Central to this has been the gradual creation, modernization of a completely autonomous, efficient centralized electoral authority.

“Lopez Obrador believes that democracy in Mexico began with his electoral victory.”

This week, AMLO organized his personal march to the Angel of Independence for November 27, inviting his followers to point out help for the proposed overhaul and promising to create a brand new corps of “incorruptible” election overseers, “not lackeys, staff of the oligarchy, individuals with out ethical scruples.”

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