Low turnout in referendum to judge former presidents in Mexico

It would be an exercise in participatory democracy. Failed exercise, since the referendum called on Sunday in Mexico had a very low turnout, far from the required quorum, according to an official estimate. The referendum, launched by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, focused on whether to investigate and prosecute five former presidents for alleged corruption.

This participation is between 7.07% and 7.74% of some 93.6 million voters, far from the 40% necessary for the vote to have legal effects, announced the National Electoral Institute (INE). The “yes” obtained between 89.36% and 96.28%, and the “no” between 1.38% and 1.58%, according to the estimate presented by the president of the INE, Lorenzo Córdova.

The final results will be known on Monday and “will be sent to the Supreme Court to determine their legal effects,” said Lorenzo Córdova. For the result of the vote to be binding, 37.4 million people, or 40% of the voters, had to participate. The Electoral Institute installed some 57,000 ballot boxes, compared to more than 160,000 for the June legislative elections.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a self-proclaimed anti-corruption champion, argued that this public consultation would strengthen participatory democracy in Mexico. But his detractors saw it only as a political coup. In Mexico, former presidents can be tried like any other citizen, and critics have argued that the referendum was unnecessary.

The referendum potentially targeted Carlos Salinas (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), Vicente Fox (2000-2006), Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). “Waiting for the results of a consultation is turning justice into a political circus,” said José Miguel Vivanco, regional director of “Human Rights Watch,” based in New York, before the announcement of the first estimate by the INE.

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Although the ballot is an idea of ​​the head of state, the country’s first left-wing president has ruled out voting himself because he does not want a “corrupt and hypocritical conservatism” to accuse him of retribution. The question proposed for the referendum pointed to five of his predecessors, all of them from the right – Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto – whose terms spanned from 1988 to 2018. But the Supreme Court changed it to a more ambiguous alternative.

“It’s not very sexy. Not even the lawyers understand, ”observes analyst Paula Sofia Vázquez. The question reads as follows: “Do you agree or disagree that the pertinent actions are taken, in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework, to undertake a process of clarification of the political decisions taken in recent years by political actors, aimed at to guarantee justice and the rights of potential victims? ”

Omar García, a survivor of the disappearance and alleged murder of 43 students in 2014, allegedly at the hands of corrupt police officers and drug traffickers, however, considered that listening to the people was valid although not binding. “This referendum encourages an end to impunity,” he said.

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