The principle is simple. "We are going to ask the Mexicans," Andrés Manuel López Obrador usually decides when faced with controversial issues. The execution, however, is more complex this time. And the purpose of the question is full of chiaroscuro, ambiguity and legal doubts. The country celebrates its first official popular consultation this Sunday, that is, regulated by the Constitution, after several informal referendums. The initiative, promoted by the president, opens the door to judge ex-governors for their programs and decisions, so it is played more in the field of political confrontation than in that of legal interpretation. The vote measures the power of convocation of the president, although the lack of public deliberation and the lack of interest registered among the voters add uncertainty about the participation,which must reach 40%, some 37.5 million voters, for the result to be binding.
The debate raised by the question has set off the alarms of the opposition, lawyers and intellectuals due to its uncertain consequences.
The ballot provides a dilemma in which there is a wide range of possibilities, from the specter of revenge and persecution to the creation of a special jurisdiction: “Do you agree or not that the pertinent actions be carried out in accordance with the framework constitutional and legal, to undertake a process of clarification of the political decisions taken in the past years by the political actors, aimed at guaranteeing justice and the rights of the possible victims? ”.
To better understand what it means, we must go back to last September, when López Obrador sent his plebiscite project to the Senate.
A consultation to become your monsters
The debate on the August 1 consultation: "The application of the law must not be submitted to the popular will"
Trial of former presidents: a consultation tailored to López Obrador
Then, the president proposed a question that was modified by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation for violating the Constitution and the principle of separation of powers. The text mentioned the last five presidents - Carlos Salinas de Gortari (PRI), Ernesto Zedillo (PRI), Vicente Fox (PAN), Felipe Calderón (PAN) and Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) - and alluded to the procedures of "the competent authorities ”against you. The formula collided with a basic rule of jurisprudence: that is, the exercise of justice is not subject to the popular will and it is up to the Prosecutor's Office and the courts to act and make the decisions they deem appropriate. However, this approach served López Obrador to lay the foundations for the umpteenth ideological battle with the parties that governed before Morena, his formation,and accelerated his break with the past. In his explanatory statement, the chief executive charged against "the ruling neoliberalism", attributing to it "the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives."
What were the causes? In his opinion, “between December 1, 1988 and November 30, 2018, Mexico experienced a period characterized by the excessive concentration of wealth, monumental losses to the treasury, privatization, widespread corruption, flawed electoral processes and government practices that They led to an uncontrolled growth of violence, public insecurity, massive violation of human rights, impunity as a norm and the breach of the rule of law in vast areas of the national territory ”.
Although the question was modified by the Supreme, these premises help to understand what was at stake. However, in recent months López Obrador was initially reluctant to participate due to his position and the impartiality that he is supposed to be. Later, he turned to calls for participation. On Friday he said that he would go to vote if he found a ballot box during his weekend tour of the state of Nayarit, on the Pacific coast, and that he would do so against it. “Everyone has to participate, we have to go and participate. I am going to be traveling roads in Nayarit, in the mountains. If there is a box where I go, I have my credential here, in my wallet, then yes. I have already said that I am going to vote against it, I said it since I took office, but the right of the people to participate cannot be taken away, ”he said without offering further arguments.This Saturday he confirmed that he will not vote.
In reality, for many Mexicans it was an uncovering and a contradiction, since the president had made this referendum a personal bet and both his environment and Morena campaigned in favor. López Obrador did highlight without nuances the importance of the instrument of the consultation. "Imagine what satisfaction for the young people who not only voted in the last election, but who can vote again to decide whether to judge or not, whether to initiate investigation processes against the former presidents, yes or no, respecting their rights" .
The design of the plebiscite, however, does not make it clear what the effects of a yes victory would be. The president of the Supreme Court himself, Arturo Zaldívar, explained to EL PAÍS that “consciously” the question was reformulated in an ambiguous and general way. According to his reading, "a consultation of this type is not an appeal to judicial processes, but to a kind of truth commission, to non-jurisdictional instruments that could generate a solution to conflicts and painful events for the country." “The judicial processes are not consulted,” he emphasizes, “but you can consult the people whether or not they want investigation or national healing procedures to be carried out. Of transitional justice ”.
The most consistent doubts on the eve of the vote have to do, however, with demobilization. According to Francisco Abundis, director of the opinion analysis firm Parametría, there are three elements that characterize the day. In the first place, it must be taken into account that "the legal solution is not necessarily functional for a process of these characteristics, and this is the most controversial requirement". Second, he adds, there is a problem of "level of information about what is being voted". Voters are unclear, often not even about the date of the vote. Finally, "there is uncertainty about participation after an election like the one on June 6". At the end of a massive process in which more than half of the census voted in midterm elections, “a phenomenon of electoral exhaustion occurs”.“I doubt that the percentage reaches double digits, almost 10 million. That would be a success ”, concludes Abundis.
The specter of participation and attacks on the INE
Those numbers would fall far short of the 40% required for the plebiscite result to be binding.
The government and Morena blame the opposition for having rejected the consultation coinciding with the June elections, in which the ruling party increased its territorial power but peaked in Congress.
And now it preemptively holds the National Electoral Institute (INE) responsible for not having devoted enough to promoting voting, which is also being held in the face of the third wave of covid-19 that hits Mexico.
The electoral body, for its part, flatly declines criticism. His advisers have been denouncing for weeks a lack of resources to deploy the necessary logistics, although they finally tightened their belts and managed to organize the day. Norma de la Cruz, counselor of the Institute, assures that "for weeks all the work of the INE has been turned to the organization of the consultation." “We can say with full confidence that we do have everything ready for Sunday. We are going to have around 288,000 polling station [college] officials. Everyone has already been trained, we are already finishing distributing the packages for the receiving tables, we have begun to disinfect and stabilize the places where we will have our tables. Since July 15 we started a very intense campaign to promote consultation and all radio time,TV. that has the INE has been used for it. We organize 335 days of dialogue throughout the country ”, he maintains.
López Obrador's questions against the INE are not new, but in this case they have intensified.
The president used words such as "shame" to speak of those responsible, whom he accused of "being against democracy."
His interest in organizing the plebiscite goes beyond its outcome.
The president wanted the vote to be a success and now he intends not to turn it into a failure, since the day will also be a dress rehearsal for the next consultation, scheduled for March 2022. The recall referendum will mark the final stretch of the mandate and It will be the last major examination of the Government before the 2024 elections for which the career of pro-government candidates has already begun.
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