Thousands of people assembled at Mexico City’s vast main plaza Sunday to stage protest against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s electoral law changes they believe threaten democracy and could mark a return to the past. The plaza is normally thought to hold nearly 100,000 people, but many protesters who couldn’t fit in the square spilled onto nearby streets.
The demonstrators were clad mostly in white and pink – the colour of the National Electoral Institute — and shouted slogans like “Don’t Touch my Vote!” Like a similar but somewhat larger march on Nov. 13, the marchers appeared somewhat more affluent than those at the average demonstration.
The electoral law changes drew attention from the U.S. government. Brian A. Nichols, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs Twitted that “Today, in Mexico, we see a great debate on electoral reforms that are testing the independence of electoral and judicial institutions.”
“The United States supports independent, well-resourced electoral institutions that strengthen democratic processes and the rule of law,” Nichols wrote.
López Obrador’s proposals were passed last week. Once enacted, they would cut salaries, funding for local election offices and training for citizens who operate and oversee polling stations. They would also reduce sanctions for candidates who fail to report campaign spending. Mexico’s president denies the reforms are a threat to democracy and says criticism is elitist, arguing the institute spends too much money. He says the funds should be spent on the poor. But protester Enrique Bastien, a 64-year-old veterinarian, said that with the reforms López Obrador “wants to return to the past” when “the government controlled elections.”