Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
AMLO paring down of Mexico's election watchdog will now get a day in the country's Supreme Court. Photo: Carlos Santiago/ Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Mexico’s Supreme Court halts AMLO’s electoral overhaul after legal challenge

The measure pushed by the Mexican President severely limits the power of the country’s election watchdog agency and led to massive protests after its passage.


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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s feud with the country’s National Election Institute (INE) was supposed to end back on Feb. 22, when Mexican lawmakers passed an overhaul of the agency that would severely limit its oversight capacities.

But things just didn’t work out that way, and the INE is now taking AMLO to court over the limiting measure. In the face of the legal challenge, Mexico’s Supreme Court has halted the measure’s implementation.

In a statement released on Friday night, March 24, 2023, Justice Javier Laynez Potisek granted the suspension of the law as the court considers the challenge.

“It is appropriate to grant the suspension even in the case of laws, when they could irreparably violate human rights,” part of the statement read.

That was the main attack on the measure from its critics, who issued grave warnings of a threat to democracy in Mexico with its passage. The timing was also suspect for the critics, as AMLO will run for reelection in 2024.

In response, hundreds of thousands protested the measure in cities across Mexico expressing the same fears. 

In addition to significantly reducing staffing for INE, funding will also be cut for local election offices across the country and for training poll workers. Less sanctions will also exist for candidates who fail to report their campaign spending — a major deterrent against cartel money being used to fund campaigns across the country.

AMLO’s argument for the measure is to save the country money by making the bureaucracy around Mexico’s elections leaner, but he also has a history of attacking the election watchdog, which has ruled against him.

“The electoral system will be improved,” AMLO said. “They are going to shrink some areas so that more can be done with less.”

In 2006, López Obrador came within 0.56% of becoming Mexico’s president in that year’s elections, but lost out to Felipe Calderon. AMLO did not lose quietly, calling the results fraudulent and urging his supporters to protest the results. A subsequent investigation by INE found nothing irregular in the results, and AMLO made the watchdog the target of his ire for the next 12 years as he plotted his next run for president.

Upon his successful election in 2018 as the head of MORENA, the new power party in the country, AMLO continually chided INE, but didn’t act until a year before his reelection campaign.

Amid the fight back from INE, Mexico’s Supreme Court has asked Mexico’s legislature and AMLO for responses within a legal timeframe.


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