Mexicans start voting a referendum promoted by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador over the investigation into former presidents for alleged corruption, but experts criticized the vote as a political stunt.
Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, has viewed administrations in the past as deeply corrupt and has made combating the practice his top priority.
But critics say the Mexican president hopes to use the consultation to bolster his base, and that it is unlikely that enough votes will be gathered to be valid. To be binding, 37.4 million people – 40 percent of the electorate – must participate.
The polls opened on Sunday at 08:00 local time (13:00 GMT) and would close at 18:00 (23:00 GMT), with the result expected to be announced within two or three days.
Although the yes vote can win up to 90 percent, it will even be difficult to vote even 30%, says Roy Campos, director of the Mitofsky ballot box.
“The consultation has become ideological,” Campos told Reuters. “The president’s supporters are those who want to go and vote, and yes vote.”
This is repeated by Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training, who called the referendum ‘strictly an exercise in politics and media exposure’ and noted that the result of the ballot not be doubted.
‘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 are going to vote? Many of us do not want to be used in manipulation. This would be an indication of how many people still support Lopez Obrador, of how much capacity he has to mobilize people. ”
According to a recent poll by the newspaper El Financiero, 77 percent of respondents said they supported the proposal to investigate former leaders, but only 31 percent of people said they would vote.
Rosario Gomez was one of those who planned to vote at one of the 57,000 polling stations set up by the polling station, compared to more than 160,000 for June Legislative and Local Elections.
“It’s time for these thieves to pay!” said the 52-year-old market salesman.
Lopez Obrador blames former leaders Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto, whose administrations stretch from 1988 to 2018, because they exacerbated many of Mexico’s problems, from poverty to insecurity.
“The people want participatory democracy, not just representative democracy,” he said last week. “You have to trust the people, you have to trust the people and their free choice, not be afraid of the people.”
The president originally wanted the referendum to ask voters if they wanted the former presidents to be prosecuted, but the Supreme Court ordered a looser wording to protect the right process and the presumption of innocence.
The question is: ‘Do you agree or disagree that the relevant actions are carried out in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework to explain a process to explain the political decisions taken by the political actors in recent years? justice and the rights of potential victims? ”
The Lopez Obrador administration did not explain what the process would entail.
The statute of limitations has expired for some of the charges the former presidents may face, and the referendum could lead to the establishment of a truth commission rather than legal action, Campos said.
But former presidents can be tried like any other citizen, and critics claim the referendum is unnecessary. “Waiting for the results of a consultation makes justice a political circus,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, America’s director of Human Rights Watch.
Other opponents said in a slogan: “The law must be applied, not for voting.”
Fox, who was president from 2000 to 2006 and is a strong critic of Lopez Obrador, urged Mexicans to stay home. “Let us not give in to this joke,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mexico ranks 124th out of 179 on Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index.