Mexico president dismisses protests against proposed electoral reform as 'racist'

Tens of thousands take to the streets to protest against plan to overhaul independent election body over fears it would concentrate government's power

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called demonstrations against his plans to overhaul the independent National Electoral Institute 'racist' and 'classist'. AP
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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday said that his administration could issue a reform to the electoral law if his constitutional plan to overhaul the country's electoral commission fails to pass in Congress, dismissing recent protests against the measure as “racist”.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in Mexico at the weekend to protest against Mr Lopez Obrador's plan to overhaul the independent National Electoral Institute (INE), the agency responsible for organising the country's federal elections, in what they fear would concentrate power in the hands of the government.

The president, however, said the demonstrations were a “racist” and “classist” protest intent on preserving privileges and challenged his adversaries to stage a bigger one.

“They did it in favour of corruption, in favour of racism, classism, discrimination,” Mr Lopez Obrador said on Monday, adding that the measure aims to protect democracy and avoid “electoral fraud”.

It was one of the biggest marches against his policies so far.

Mr Lopez Obrador, who put the plan forward in April, has long criticised the country's electoral authorities, including accusing them of helping to engineer his defeats when he ran for the presidency in 2006 and 2012.

He has said the reform would let citizens elect authorities and reduce the influence of economic interests in politics, while also cutting financing for political parties and limiting advertising time.

People march along the renowned Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City against the proposed reform. EPA

INE, the president says, has 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 favour of a federal one.

But protesters said the measure, headed soon for a vote in Congress, would be a blow to free elections and amount to a broader power grab by Mr Lopez Obrador.

The ruling Morena party and its allies lack the two-thirds congressional majority needed for the constitutional reform. But the proposal appeared to be geared towards a change in the law that would only require a simple majority.

Agencies contribute to this report

Updated: November 15, 2022, 5:50 PM