MEXICO CITY (AP) — A referendum allowing Mexicans to vote midterm on whether the president should remain in office has become a strange political football involving all three branches of government.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced gleefully Monday that his supporters had collected 10 million signatures in favor of the referendum — several times more than is legally required — which could put his future at risk.
It’s strange because there is little apparent reason to hold the referendum and the constitution doesn’t require it. López Obrador gets positive ratings from about two-thirds of those polled and would no doubt win the vote to serve out the second half of his six-year term.
But the president’s political style consists of constant campaigning: He was on the campaign trail nonstop from 2005 to 2018, and enjoys it. So he is demanding a referendum, even though it will cost about $200 million and electoral authorities say they don’t have enough money.
The issue went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ordered the National Electoral Institute to hold the April 10 referendum anyway.
And some members of Congress, dominated by the president’s Morena party, weighed in by filing a criminal complaint essentially accusing electoral officials of blocking democracy.
With the signatures in hand, the president now considers the matter settled, and appears to wish that criminal complaint would go away.
“Let the people decide, let it be the people,” López Obrador said. “Let’s end the complaints and the accusation and organize it already.”
The opposition National Action Party calls the referendum “a very expensive and unconstitutional piece of political theater” and said the money would better be spent on creating jobs, reactivating the pandemic-battered economy and alleviating poverty.
Patricio Morelos, a professor at the Monterrey Technological university, said López Obrador is eager to hold the vote because it was one of his campaign promises. It would also serve to energize his political base before the 2022 gubernatorial races and the 2024 presidential elections.
The National Electoral Institute wrote in a statement that the Congress members’ criminal complaint was an act of “intimidation and an attack on our autonomy.”
While the institute is independent and nonpartisan, López Obrador has frequently accused its member of being “conservatives” opposed to his policies.