January 29, 2023

By Diego Ore

MEXICOCITY – The Mexican president’s determination to enact controversial electoral reform helped unite a fragmented opposition ahead of the country’s last major elections before the 2024 election of a new leader.

On November 13, tens of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets to protest President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to cut funding for the National Electoral Institute (INE) – who oversees the elections in Mexico – and reorganize the body so that he has more control over it.

The protest was organized by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is helping to stoke opposition to the reform, which civil society groups fear will undermine democracy under Lopez Obrador.

Opinion polls since the demonstration, the largest against Lopez Obrador’s policies since he took office four years ago, showed support for the opposition creeping up on the ruling left-wing National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).

MORENA must learn to listen and these are times when we must not be arrogant, we must not listen and we must not see what is happening in the country,” said Ricardo Monreal, MORENAChairman of the Senate and presidential candidate for 2024.

Opposition to electoral reform, one of the president’s top legislative priorities, has exposed the limits of his power and why MORENA faces a battle to retain control of Congress in 2024, even if he’s hotly favored to retain the presidency.

Before the protest, some opposition politicians had questioned that PRI‘s willingness to vote INE Overhaul threatens to drive a wedge between them MORENAThe opponents.

But the demonstration revived hopes that the once dominant PRI can defend two of its remaining bastions in elections in the state of Mexico and in the northern state of Coahuila next June.

The state of Mexico, which surrounds much of Mexico City, is the country’s most populous region and a showcase for voter sentiment ahead of the presidential race. That PRI never lost a gubernatorial contest there or in Coahuila.

That’s according to a voter poll published this week by polling firm Buendia & Marquez for El Universal newspaper PRIthe centre-right National Action Party (PAN) and two other opposition parties eat together MORENA‘s still commanding lead.

MORENA has more than double the support of its closest rivals, but the poll suggested the election could be significantly closer if the centre-left Citizens Movement (MC) party unites with the rest of the opposition.

MC has so far shied away from collaborating with the other opposition groups, trying to position itself as independent MORENA and the more established opposition parties that Lopez Obrador has denounced as corrupt.

Some members of MC told Reuters that the group could work with the opposition in 2023, although the party leadership has yet to approve such a move.

Without the support of the opposition, Lopez Obrador cannot push through his planned electoral revision, a constitutional reform that requires a two-thirds majority in Congress.

Debates began last week in congressional committees over the bill, which also would cut funding for political parties and limit advertising time.

The President says the legislation will democratize INE by having its commissioners elected by the public rather than by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons.

Under the reform, however, the task of nominating candidates falls to a combination of the Judiciary, Congress and the Executive Branch. Critics see this as a seizure of power by the president, which Lopez Obrador denies.

If the bill fails, Lopez Obrador has proposed minor changes that only require a simple majority. but MORENA‘s Monreal have questioned the validity of this plan.

Lopez Obrador may have one last chance to change that INE if four of its 11 commissioners resign next April.

Regardless of whether the INE Controversy is reviving voters, with analysts saying it’s far from clear the opposition has found candidates to capture the public’s imagination.

“Winning in Coahuila and the state of Mexico is more doable than the presidential election,” said Antonio Ocaranza, former spokesman for former President Ernesto Zedillo.

“It’s one thing to agree to defend that INE and another to agree on a competitive candidate.”

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