Court invalidates part of controversial electoral reform in Mexico


FILE - A police officer guards the building of the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City, on January 23, 2023. The Court discusses on Monday, May 8, 2023, the possible invalidation of part of an electoral reform promoted by the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.  (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
FILE – A police officer guards the building of the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City, on January 23, 2023. The Court discusses on Monday, May 8, 2023, the possible invalidation of part of an electoral reform promoted by the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday invalidated part of an electoral reform in Mexico, in the most recent setback for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador —promoter of the initiative— and which anticipates an increase in tensions between the Executive and the highest court.

Nine of the 11 ministers of the Supreme Court voted in favor of invalidating the reform of the Social Communication and Administrative Responsibilities laws, which the pro-government majority in Congress approved in December, and which allowed public officials to express political opinions without risk of being penalized for engaging in electoral propaganda — as currently established.

The highest court considered that the Legislature incurred in violations of due process by approving the changes to the laws in less than 24 hours without the opposition deputies being previously aware of the initiatives. For the ministers, this violated the principle of informed and democratic deliberation, as well as the rights of parliamentary minorities.

Among those who voted against the reform was the president of the Court, Norma Piña, who maintained that the legislative initiatives were issued without all the political forces having time to analyze them.

Another of those who supported the invalidation of the reform was Minister Arturo Zaldívar, former president of the highest court, who stated that it must be ensured that all groups in a parliament can debate “in conditions of equality and freedom”, adding that “in this case did not happen.” Zaldívar’s position drew attention, because last month he voted in favor of a government proposal for the National Guard to continue under the control of the Army and was criticized for an alleged closeness to the Executive.

The government’s reaction was immediate. The Secretary of the Interior, Adán Augusto López, questioned the ministers on his Twitter account and accused them of “continuing to protect private interests.” For the official, the nine ministers who invalidated that part of the reform “passed over the democratic will expressed by the popular representatives.”

The arguments put forward by the nine ministers suggest that the second part of the electoral reform, which was also challenged by the opposition and the National Electoral Institute (INE) —and is still pending discussion in the Court— could run with the same luck and be cancelled.

The lawyer and private consultant Arturo Espinosa Silis considered that in the approval of the second part of the reform there were also violations of the legislative process, for which the ministers, “for consistency and consistency, must follow the same criteria.”

A similar situation could occur with about twenty laws on other government matters approved by the official majority at the end of April without the presence of opponents.

One day before the session, the Legal Department of the Presidency urged the ministers to act responsibly in a statement and stated that, if part of the reform were invalidated, they would be substituting the power of Congress to make laws and “would violate the division of powers”, pronouncement that was considered by analysts as an action of pressure against the Court.

Espinosa Silis indicated that in this case the ministers made it clear that they did not give in to government pressure, but he admitted that “the attack against the Supreme Court is going to be greater and greater” and it is not clear how long they will be able to resist. “We need the Supreme Court to continue being that last front of contention that resists abuses, that resists the excesses of the Legislative and the Executive,” she added.

In recent weeks, relations between the government and the Supreme Court have become tense after the ministers invalidated in April a reform that transferred operational and administrative control of the National Guard to the Army, which represented a severe setback for López Obrador. who has based his security policy on the use of the military to deal with the powerful criminal organizations that control vast regions of the country.

After the rejection of the military reform, the ruler harshly criticized the ministers and announced that in 2024, the last year of his six-year term, he would promote a new reform initiative to complete the transfer of the National Guard to the Ministry of National Defense.

At the end of last year, López Obrador promoted the reform of six laws to make adjustments in electoral matters, in a movement known as “Plan B”, after he did not obtain enough votes in Congress to modify the Constitution on electoral issues. .

Two of the six laws were approved in December and the remaining four, which reduced the structure of the INE and reduced the powers of supervision and sanction to the parties, were approved two months later and are pending evaluation by the Court.

The INE and the opposition parties filed actions against the package of laws in the Supreme Court alleging that the changes violated the constitution, undermined the autonomy of the institution, unbalanced the social communication model and harmed fairness in the electoral contest.

López Obrador has denied that the reform package could jeopardize the holding of elections in Mexico, as the electoral authorities assured, and stated that the initiative sought to cut the onerous budget of the INE and end its privileges.

Now, with the invalidation of part of the electoral reform, analysts estimate that the INE will have greater certainty about its actions and will be able to move forward without pressure to prepare next year’s presidential elections.