Mexico's president dismisses mass protest against electoral overhaul
Mexico's president on Monday shrugged off a major demonstration against his plan to overhaul the country's electoral authority, dismissing it as a "racist" and "classist" protest and challenging his adversaries to stage a bigger one. Likening Sunday's protest in Mexico City to a "political striptease" by his opponents, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador repeated his assertions that his proposal to cut the National Electoral Institute's (INE) budget and change how its board is picked would strengthen democracy rather than weaken it as critics have argued.
"They did it in favor of corruption, in favor of racism, classism, discrimination," Lopez Obrador said in a regular news conference. The president, who spent part of the briefing questioning the democratic credentials of prominent participants of the march, estimated around 50,000 and 60,000 people took part.
Organizers said hundreds of thousands attended the march, which was one of the largest demonstrations against Lopez Obrador's policies since the leftist took office four years ago. Lopez Obrador, has long criticized the country's electoral authorities, including accusing them of helping to engineer his defeats when he ran for the presidency in 2006 and 2012.
The reform is needed to protect Mexico's elections from fraud, he said, describing criticism as "unfounded." The president argues his plan will make the INE more democratic by allowing the public to vote for its board.
But the plan calls for candidates for the board to be put forward by the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government, which critics see as a power grab by the president, due to his influence over those bodies. His ruling MORENA party lacks the two-thirds congressional majority needed for the constitutional reform of the INE.
However, some analysts say he could find the votes with support from lawmakers in the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a party that for decades ruled Mexico and which Lopez Obrador has long attacked as corrupt.
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