In Mexico, more than 100,000 protesters rally against changes to election agency

Protesters in Mexico City
(Image credit: Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

More than 100,000 people gathered in Mexico City on Sunday to protest against an overhaul of the National Electoral Institute, which oversees Mexico's elections.

Last week, with the support of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexican lawmakers approved making changes to the agency, cutting its budget and staff and weakening its power to punish those who violate election law. Federal one-party rule ended in Mexico in 2000, and Reuters says the National Electoral Institution has "played an important role in the shift to multi-party democracy" since then.

Those opposed to the overhaul say it threatens democracy, violates the constitution, and weakens the agency's independence. The next election is in 2024, and López Obrador has denied accusations that he wants to use these changes to stay in power. The overhaul is a cost-cutting measure, he said, and the $150 million saved annually can go to pay for health care, education, and infrastructure.

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Organizers say anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 protesters were in Mexico City on Sunday, with tens of thousands of others attending demonstrations in more than 100 other cities. One of those organizers, opposition politician Fernando Belaunzaran, told Reuters by weakening the National Electoral Institute, it increases the risk of disputes amid the 2024 election. Because presidents serve one six-year term, López Obrador's successor will be chosen next year.

"Normally presidents try to have governability and stability for their succession, but the president is creating uncertainty," Belaunzaran said. "He's playing with fire."

Pedro Miguel, a journalist with the leftist La Jornada newspaper, sees things differently, telling The New York Times the National Electoral Institute has "too much power, perverted power," and blasted the agency for paying its members bonuses after they step down. "This is a march in defense of that bonus and those miserable salaries," Miguel added.

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