© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference at the Old City Hall (Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento), in Mexico City, Mexico January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Romero
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A controversial overhaul of the body overseeing Mexico’s elections, backed by the country’s president but seen by critics as an attempt to weaken the electoral referee in the run-up to key elections next year, went into affect on Thursday.
Tens of thousands took to the streets on Sunday to protest the changes, which reorganizes the National Electoral Institute (INE) by cutting its budget, culling its staff and closing offices.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says the changes will save $150 million a year and reduce the influence of economic interests in politics.
“The electoral law that is being challenged does not affect at all the functioning of the INE,” Lopez Obrador said on Thursday at a regular news conference.
“Those who came to march don’t even know what it consists of,” the president added.
Opposition lawmakers and other critics, who say the overhaul weakens democracy ahead of the 2023 presidential vote, have said they will challenge the reform’s constitutionality in courts.
Mexico’s Senate, which is dominated by Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Party (Morena) and its allies, finalized the reform’s approval on Wednesday.
Although less ambitious than an original plan, the reform has stoked measured criticism from Washington, with the U.S. State Department calling for a “well-resourced, independent electoral system and respect for judicial independence.”
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