Mexicans vote on president’s recall, an effort he called for

MEXICO CITY (AP) — For the first time in history, Mexicans will vote on Sunday whether their president should finish the remainder of his term in office.

It was a bizarre journey into this mood. For starters, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself demanded it. The president became angry when election officials set up a limited number of polling stations to save money.

Second, there is little chance that the required minimum of 40% of voters – nearly 40 million – will show up for the referendum to be valid.

And third, there is little chance that López Obrador would lose, with current approval ratings of around 60%.

So why is Mexico going ahead with the vote, which will cost nearly $80 million?

Analysts say López Obrador wanted the recall to mobilize and invigorate his supporters; he is a president who has campaigned continuously since 2005, depicting his administration as a twilight battle to defeat conservatives.

So he hopes the bid to get votes will bolster his party in this year’s state elections, with a possible spillover effect into the 2024 presidential race. The vote asks whether López Obrador should remain as president or be replaced.

While some opposition groups have called on people to boycott the vote, some opponents really want to try and win, saying people should vote to recall the president.

Martín Meneses, 58, a formal postal worker, says such a vote “is important so that the president can see people awaken from their sleep.”

Like many opponents, Meneses sees López Obrador’s highly personal, charismatic style as a weakening of democracy. The president has reined in criticism, verbally assaulted journalists, lashed out at judges whose rulings he disagrees with, and eliminated nice things like environmental impact statements for his pet building projects.

Meneses sees the mood as another expensive play by López Obrador to focus on himself. Referring to the government’s failure to buy enough drugs for childhood cancer treatments, Meneses objected to “stratospheric costs to hold a vote, when children with cancer are not on drugs.”

The president’s supporters view the vote as equally important.

María Hernández, a 70-year-old housewife in Mexico City’s gritty Colonia Obrera neighborhood, is all too aware of the roughly $75-a-month old age benefit instituted by López Obrador.

“In good times and bad, we have to stay with him because when he’s not there, they take away the advantages we have,” said Hernández. “They can’t remember the man who helped us.”

Abel Medina, 40, who owns a small tortilla ship in Mexico City’s historic center, said the vote will be “worth it to give the president legitimacy.”

“Now we have a good president, unlike those of the past who dug us into a whole by selling state-owned companies,” Medina said. “That’s why we want him to continue.”

If it’s unlikely to have any effect, what’s the harm in voting other than the money spent?

Rubén Salazar, director of the company Etellekt Consulting, said there are dangers in the way the government of López Obrador has tried to stir enthusiasm for the vote; the president’s previous referendums have produced a meager turnout.

“The government’s own propaganda apparatus has been campaigning very intensely with public money,” Salazar said, noting that “those receiving social benefits have been pressured” to vote.

That remains a concern; Mexico was ruled for seven decades by the old Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which routinely handed out programs in exchange for votes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.