Mexico holds a referendum on the investigation of former presidents | politics news | World Weekly

Mexicans have begun voting in a referendum promoted by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on whether to investigate former presidents over corruption allegations, but experts have criticized the vote as a political ploy.

Lopez Obrador, widely known as AMLO, has described previous administrations as highly corrupt and has made combating the practice his top priority.

But critics said the Mexican president hopes to use the consultations to revitalize his base, and is unlikely to get enough votes to be valid. To be binding, 37.4 million people must participate – 40 percent of the electoral register.

Polls opened at 8 am local time (1300 GMT) on Sunday and were due to end at 6 pm (2300 GMT) and the result is expected to be announced within two or three days.

Roy Campos, director of polling firm Mitofsky, said that while a “yes” vote could win up to 90 percent, it would be difficult to achieve even 30 percent turnout.

“The consultations have become ideological,” Campos told Reuters news agency. The president’s supporters are the ones who want to go vote and vote yes.

Critics say the vote is a political stunt that will show President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s ability to mobilize his supporters. [File: Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

This was echoed by Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training, who called the referendum an “exercise in politics and media exposure” and noted that the outcome of the poll question was not in doubt.

“The question is not whether the ‘yes’ option will win, we know that 90 percent or more will vote yes,” Crespo said.

The question is, how many people will come out to vote? Not many of us want to be used to manipulation. It will be an indication of how many people still support Lopez Obrador, and how well he can rally people.”

According to a recent survey by El Financiero newspaper, 77 percent of respondents said they would support the proposal to investigate former leaders, but only 31 percent of people said they would vote.

Rosario Gomez was among those who planned to vote in one of the 57,000 ballot boxes set up by the Electoral Institute, compared to more than 160,000 for legislative and local elections in June.

“It’s time to pay those thieves!” said the 52-year-old market salesman.

Lopez Obrador blamed former leaders Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto, whose administrations spanned between 1988 and 2018, for exacerbating many of Mexico’s problems, from poverty to insecurity.

“People want a participatory democracy, not just representative democracy,” he said last week. “You must trust people, you must trust people and their free choice, and not be afraid of people.”

An advertisement featuring the image of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas invites citizens to participate in the referendum [Christian Palma/AP Photo]

The president originally wanted the referendum to ask voters if they wanted previous presidents to be impeached, but the Supreme Court ordered more flexible wording to protect due process and the presumption of innocence.

The question says: “Do you agree or not to implement the relevant measures, in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework, to carry out the process of clarifying the political decisions taken in the past years by political actors, with the aim of ensuring justice and the rights of potential victims?”

The Lopez Obrador administration has not detailed what this process will entail.

Campos said the statute of limitations has expired for some of the charges previous presidents are likely to face, and the referendum could lead to the creation of a truth commission rather than legal action.

But former presidents can be prosecuted like any other citizen, and critics argue that a referendum is unnecessary. “Waiting for the results of a consultation makes justice a political circus,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

Other opponents said in a slogan: “The law should be implemented, not put to a vote.”

Fox, who was president from 2000 to 2006 and is a vocal critic of Lopez Obrador, urged Mexicans to stay home. “Let’s not get caught up in this farce,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mexico ranks 124th out of 179 on Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index.

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