MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he will send a proposal to Congress in April aimed at letting citizens elect electoral authorities, sparking concerns the move could presage a power grab.
Lopez Obrador, a leftist, has criticized electoral authorities for years, including accusing them of widespread vote fraud in 2006 and 2012 when he ran and lost bids for the presidency, arguing that the system is stacked against him.
“So that free, secret voting is ensured, so that there is no electoral fraud … The people are going to choose directly,” Lopez Obrador told a regular morning news conference.
Mexico’s executive, legislative and judicial branches would put forward candidates who were “truly independent, of unquestionable honesty,” he added.
However, critics say having the public vote on such candidates could give undue control of the electoral system to Lopez Obrador, who has pursued contentious policies by pitching referendums to claim popular mandates for his objectives.
“It would affect the electoral principles of impartiality, objectivity, certainty, autonomy, independence and fairness,” Francisco Burgoa, a law professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said on Twitter.
Carlos Ramirez, a former head of Mexico’s pension system, said on Twitter that Lopez Obrador’s proposal marked an attempt to “capture” the National Electoral Institute (INE) and the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) by mobilizing his supporters.
The Mexican president has frequently clashed with the INE, and lawmakers slashed funding for the entity by 20% in the 2022 budget.
Lopez Obrador next month will hold a recall referendum on his presidency in a bid to strengthen his democratic mandate. Turnout for his referendums has tended to be low.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Raul Cortes, Valentine Hilaire and Adriana Barrera; editing by Paul Simao)