While the reform is unlikely to pass in its current form, AMLO’s influence over the next government is still a signpost to watch
MORENA, Mexico’s ruling party, is poised to retain the presidency in 2024, regardless of the heated debate around an electoral reform and its potential outcome in Congress. Because President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO’s) party doesn’t have the two-thirds legislative majority required to reform the National Electoral Institute (INE), it is unlikely that AMLO’s proposal will be enacted. Still, the opposition lacks a clear leader, and there are fault lines within its coalition; while we have seen protests and resistance from different sectors of the Mexican public, this will not necessarily translate into votes for the opposition under the Va por Mexico coalition. The incumbent party, however, continues to have a solid grasp of the political landscape in Mexico. Thus, firms should start preparing for the likely scenario of another six years under MORENA’s stewardship. Given Mexico’s rule against re-election bids, the next presidency will have a different tone, but AMLO’s influence over the next government will be a signpost to watch.
On November 13, thousands of people took to the streets in several Mexican cities to protest AMLO’s project to reform the INE. The president claims that the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections were fraudulent and that the INE was a central part of a scheme to rig the results against him. AMLO’s distaste for the INE is part of a pattern to overstretch his influence over different parts of the Mexican state. The bulk of AMLO and MORENA’s proposal is to enact a constitutional reform that would sack current INE authorities and establish a popular vote mechanism to choose the electoral authorities that will oversee the 2024 presidential election. Other major items included in AMLO’s proposal are the elimination of public funding for political parties and the reduction of members of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, from 500 to 300 for the former and 128 to 96 for the latter.
From a different angle, civil society organizations, the opposition, and thousands of voters argue that the INE is an independent organization that has been a guardian of democracy since the Mexican transition in the year 2000. Naturally, the situation sparked fears in some political and business circles about potential democratic backsliding in an already-polarized country.
It is unlikely that AMLO and MORENA will be able to reform the INE because of the difficulties in surpassing the constitutional threshold to enact a reform. Not only did the protests, public opinion polls, and discussions among business leaders show strong civil support for the INE’s work, but the three main opposition parties—PRI, PAN, and PRD—stated that they will vote against the project. Senator Ricardo Monreal, who is also vying to obtain MORENA’s presidential nomination, also expressed differences with the proposal. AMLO’s recent failure to pass the electricity reform last April is a clear precedent on the difficulty of achieving reforms that require a special majority of 333 deputies in the lower house, particularly if the opposition is united.
Not surprisingly, AMLO announced that he has a plan B if the legislative branch rejects his plan. While the details of the plan are not yet known, it would imply a less ambitious package of laws that would not entail a major electoral reform and would not need a two-thirds congressional majority. In that case, AMLO could reach a sort of negotiated settlement, but not to the scale of the sweeping reforms included in his initial proposal. Against this backdrop and the strong possibility that the proposed reform will be defeated in Congress, the key point that firms should keep in mind is that the current impasse will not substantially change the electoral landscape, which continues to make MORENA’s candidate a favorite to win the presidency in 2024.
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