MEXICO CITY, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Mexico on Sunday against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to reform the country’s electoral commission, INE, as they fear it will concentrate power in the hands of the government.
López Obrador, who proposed the plan in April, has long criticized the country’s electoral authorities, including accusing him of helping to defeat him in his 2006 and 2012 presidential bids.
According to him, the reform will allow citizens to elect electoral bodies and reduce the influence of economic interests in politics. It also cuts funding to political parties and limits advertising time.
Congress began debating the plan last week.
The changes gave the president more control over electoral systems, raising fears of a possible power grab.
In the past, López Obrador has pursued controversial policies by canceling referendums, including a partially built airport, to claim popular mandates for his goals.
Demonstrators in Mexico City carried placards and banners or wore T-shirts that read “Defend INE.”
It gained momentum during the day as the demonstrators marched towards the Revolution Monument on Reforma Avenue.
A Reuters witness estimated that tens of thousands of protesters took part, while a police officer who witnessed the march in Reforma put the number at around 50,000.
Organizers said the number was in the hundreds of thousands, but some of López Obrador’s political allies gave much lower estimates.
This is one of the largest protests against López Obrador’s policies so far.
“Democracy in Mexico is under threat,” said Ana Lilia Moreno, an economist who marched in the capital with her eight-year-old daughter.
“I hope that many young people will participate, even those who are not interested in politics, who will appreciate our institutions and defend what our parents and grandparents built so that they can mature politically.”
Protesters shared photos from other cities on social networks.
López Obrador celebrated his 69th birthday in a video message on Twitter, but did not address the protests.
His ruling Morena party and its allies need a two-thirds majority in Congress to amend the constitution. Currently, the party does not reach that majority.
Reporting by Stephanie Eschenbacher, Dave Graham and Carlos Carrillo in Mexico City; Edited by Diane Craft
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