Success in mid-term elections will be a huge step forward for president Andres Manuel López Obrador.
Ever heard of a country where electoral fraud favours the opposition? Try Mexico, with its corrupt and aberrant Electoral Commission (National Electoral Institute, INE by its Spanish initials).
Political polarisation has been growing in Mexico over several aspects of president Andres Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO’s) “Fourth Transformation” – national control of oil and electric power, reform of a notoriously corrupt judicial system, bringing delinquent old-regime politicians to justice, ending false subcontracting and ensuring gender parity and indigenous rights.
Now the entire direction of travel has reached a critical point not seen since AMLO’s election in 2018, with the mid-term elections coming up on 6 June.
At stake are all 500 seats in the Lower House of the Mexican Congress, 15 of 32 state governorships, legislative assemblies in most of the states and thousands of mayoral and councillor positions in local governments.
If AMLO’s Morena party wins most of these positions, the Fourth Transformation will be consolidated and accelerated. If it loses, the country will be thrown into severe crisis.
On the whole the polls are looking good for Morena, but the elections are far from being a pushover. This is because of several institutional roadblocks which favour the opposition.
The first roadblock is INE, controlled by a small cabal of longstanding members who scarcely even try to disguise their sympathies for the old-regime parties, PRI and PAN.
Even before the start of the official two-month campaign period, INE imposed a gagging order on the president, forbidding him from discussing party politics or claiming partisan credit for governmental programmes in his morning press conferences.
INE has also used its powers of supervision over party campaigns in blatant discriminatory fashion, disqualifying 49 Morena candidates for alleged minor infractions in election spending while ignoring any infractions by other parties.
Opposition governors and mayors in several important states and cities continue to bend and break the electoral rules with impunity as INE looks the other way.
While striving to avoid direct confrontation, AMLO has openly denounced the bias of INE and of the Judicial Electoral Tribunal which supposedly acts as a check on INE but shares its corrupt tendencies.
Indeed AMLO has indicated that after the elections he will introduce legislation to reform INE and other defective organisations, but this will not deal with the immediate problem.
As the president insists, ‘Only the people can guarantee democracy’ – and there must be mass mobilisation to vote on 6 June and to exercise vigilance at polling stations and in the count.
Thanks to AMLO’s reforms there are some institutions with integrity which have begun to intervene against fraudulent actions by the opposition.
The attorney-general’s office (FGR by its Spanish initials) has brought legal actions against some right-wing politicians for fraudulent transactions, threats and coercion of voters and the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) has been suspending bank accounts of opposition politicians suspected of bribery and links to organised crime.
AMLO succeeded in appointing a progressive attorney general and an incorruptible chief