A fact that many had warned about. Participation in the plebiscite, which inquires about investigating former political leaders for crimes committed during their governments, is relatively low. The popular consultation that seeks to “prosecute the past” was promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and will serve as a thermometer to determine support for the leftist.
A referendum wrapped in controversy. Mexico is holding this Sunday a popular consultation throughout the country promoted by the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to determine if the authorities are investigating five former presidents of the country for corruption cases. “The people want participatory democracy, not just representative democracy,” Morena’s leader said last week to justify the referendum, which has cost about 25 million Mexican pesos (about 1.2 million dollars).
At two in the afternoon on Sunday, 99.8% of the polling stations were open, according to the National Electoral Institute (INE). Without long lines and with little influx, turnout has been relatively low, in relation to the last midterm elections – on June 6 – which had mobilized 53% of registered voters.
Some 37.5 million voters are needed for the result to be binding
For the consultation to be binding, 40% of registered voters need to participate, some 37.5 million Mexicans of the 93 million called to the polls. The polling stations will be open until 6:00 p.m. local time and an estimate of the results and a projection of participation are expected from 9:00 p.m.
“I am not going to vote, because the truth is I do not believe that regardless of the result of this vote, I do not believe the scope that it may have, for example in case the majority of the citizens will vote because if there is a trial of the former presidents, they will stay in that, on paper, “Sergio Macillas told AFP near a polling station where voters arrive by dropper.
An ambiguous question
The ambiguity of the question on the ballot – with an answer of “Yes” or “No” – asks voters to reject or support “a process of investigation of political decisions” made in previous years by former presidents, with the aim of “Guarantee justice and the rights of possible victims.”
“I voted ‘Yes’. I agree that they are tried. Unfortunately most magistrates and judges are corrupt, so it would be difficult for them to go to jail. At least they know that public opinion rejects them completely”, a voter declared to the Reuters agency.
Many Mexicans agree with the premise and criticize that the question is too obvious. “Do you agree or not that the pertinent actions are carried out, in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework, to undertake a process of clarification of the political decisions made in the past years by political actors, aimed at guaranteeing justice What about the rights of possible victims? “, reads the statement.
“Not only does it require a pause to take a breath to finish reading it, it requires rereading it two or three times to understand what it says,” said columnist Maite Azuela in the newspaper ‘El Universal’.
Some also question the way the question is worded. In fact, the Supreme Court reformulated the question “to protect the process and the presumption of innocence”, since the original included the names of the former presidents who propose to prosecute for corruption, electoral fraud or the war against drug trafficking: Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), Vicente Fox (2000-2006), Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).
Mexico does not have a formal amnesty for ex-rulers so, according to Mexican regulations, they can be brought to justice if there is evidence that they have committed a crime.
Despite this, some insist that the referendum is a good formula. “This country has been the victim of bad governments, of out-of-control corruption. I think it is important that the people come out, that they express themselves and that these people are judged,” one voter in favor of “Yes” told Reuters.
Fight against corruption
Institutional corruption and impunity is one of the greatest scourges in Mexico. Since the beginning of his mandate, López Obrador promised to eradicate this historical problem that has generated poverty and insecurity in the country, without having much success so far. Therefore, many analysts believe that this referendum with ideological overtones is a maneuver by the president to demonstrate his promises and silence critics.
According to AMLO, the acronym by which the leader is known, the predecessor administrations have been “deeply corrupt”, raising the flag against impunity and the fight against bribery as the main government proposal. “Corruption generalizes, the massive violation of human rights, impunity as the norm and the breakdown of the rule of law in vast areas of the country” have characterized previous administrations, according to the leftist.
Although many question the governance of previous administrations, the referendum has not generated as much reception among Mexicans as AMLO and his party expected, with a minimal support that is anticipated, I did not achieve the required majority. Despite being the main promoter of the plebiscite and calling for citizen participation, López Obrador has said several times that his “strong suit is not revenge,” so he will not go to the polls this Sunday.
The challenge of participation
Voters sympathetic to the leftist praise the effort to promote citizen participation and see in the plebiscite question a door to justice. “It is like a hope can be said, for a better process, for a well-being so that justice is done, in such a way of all the challenges that these gentlemen made and in the same way I know that when the current president leaves, he will be prosecuted” Monserrat Rosas Sánchez, a public official in the capital, Mexico City, told AFP.
But many are skeptical about what real actions will be taken if the result is positive, since the Mexican government has not advanced what the next steps will be. “It is a way of expressing my anger against the presidents who plundered the country, but I doubt that they will really be prosecuted,” José Cortés told AP before casting his vote in the state of Tlaxcala.
According to analysts, this referendum and the anticipation of a low turnout will also serve to demonstrate the popularity of the president, after the first three years of his Executive, at a time of economic crisis in the country aggravated by the management of the pandemic of Covid-19, which is now going through its third peak of infections. But also a security crisis, with a record of murders so far in office.
Criticisms from the academic world and social organizations
The political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training, José Antonio Crespo, told the AP that the referendum is “strictly an exercise in politics and exposure to the media.” According to him, the question is not the one written on paper, but “the real question is, how many people will go out to vote? Many of us do not want to be used in a manipulation. It will be an indicator of how many people continue to support López Obrador, of how much capacity he has to mobilize people ”.
In the same vein, the political scientist of the UNAM Khemvirg Puente university said in statements to EFE: “It seems to me nonsense to ask if crimes should be punished. An absurdity is asked because what is sought is not to impart justice but to build an agenda media “.
From the opposition, they have asked their supporters to stay home and not participate in the plebiscite: “Let’s not get carried away by this farce,” the former president and critic of López Obrador, Vicente Fox, wrote on Twitter. Others launched slogans such as: “the law must be applied, not put to a vote ”.
Beyond the political opposition, the approach was also criticized by academics and civil organizations who consider that justice should be applied without submitting to consultation. Some human rights organizations believe that leaving the investigation of such crimes to a referendum is incompatible with constitutional and international law, since “justice for the victims cannot be canceled by popular vote,” they expressed from WOLA.
With AP, AFP, EFE, Reuters and local media