With the elections two months away, the president and his party have begun a steady barrage of attacks and threats against the National Electoral Institute (INE), the organizer and arbitrator of the electoral process. The offensive began in earnest after the institute voted on March 25 to rule scores of federal and local candidates off this June’s ballot, most of them allies of the current government, for failing to comply with filing requirements.
The ink had hardly dried on his commitment not to intervene in the electoral process when President López Obrador blasted the INE decision as undemocratic and then accused the institute of assuming the role of “the supreme conservative power.” Morena party head Mario Delgado backed the president’s arguments and threatened to “exterminate” the body and begin impeachment proceedings in Congress “against seven useless, worthless, corrupt board members” including INE President Lorenzo Córdova. One of those the INE ruled off the ballot, the Morena gubernatorial nominee in Guerrero, took the argument further by telling protestors outside the INE’s national offices that the institution “should be closed down by the people and the building…turned into a highly specialized hospital.” Another major point of contention is the INE’s decision to impose new rules to avoid the artificially inflated congressional majority the pro-AMLO camp unconstitutionally cobbled together following the 2018 elections through parliamentary machinations.
AMLO has long been a bitter critic of the electoral authority since he alleged it assisted Felipe Calderón in stealing the 2006 presidential election from him, but never has there been such a violent effort to disqualify and potentially eliminate the electoral authority. And it is one that poses the specter of a post-election conflict over the legitimacy of the results that could well be a prelude to heightened political conflicts to come.
It is practically impossible that they will try to politically prosecute the INE board members with the aim of replacing them in the next 60 days of the campaign, but we can expect the attacks to intensify after the vote. Just how big a threat they may pose to the institutionality on which democracy is based will largely be determined by whether the governing camp will continue to enjoy an overwhelming majority in the next Congress.
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