Tens of thousands protested in Mexico City’s main plaza on Sunday against the country’s new changes to its electoral law.
The protesters assert that the changes by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador threaten democracy and could take Mexico backward.
The main plaza in Mexico City is estimated to generally hold about 100,000 people. On Sunday, an overflow crowd spilled onto the surrounding streets.
President López Obrador has asserted that Mexico’s 33-year-old autonomous electoral institute—the INE, which had replaced a fraud-riddled system with tight restrictions, including voter ID—has become a bloated bureaucracy. His plan entails slashing the INE’s budget and staff as part of a national austerity effort. López Obrador insists his plan, which was passed last week, will save Mexico some $150 million a year.
The opposition, however, consider the INE to be one of the most important institutions in the country’s transition from seven decades of one-party rule.
Opponents describe the recent vote to slash INE as an attack on democracy itself, pressing Mexico’s Supreme Court to overturn the decision as unconstitutional.
Mexico’s electoral changes have drawn attention from the U.S. as well. On Sunday Brian A. Nichols, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted, “In Mexico today, we see a great debate on electoral reforms that are testing the independence of electoral and judicial institutions. The US supports independent electoral institutions that have the resources to strengthen democratic processes and the rule of law.”
Despite his expectation of court challenges, López Obrador said he plans to sign the changes into law on Thursday. Many at Sunday’s protest expressed hope that Mexico’s Supreme Court would overturn some of the changes, as courts have done with other presidential initiatives.