Mexico City, Aug 2 (EFE).- Mexico’s president said Monday that a nationwide referendum on whether to investigate and try former heads of state for corruption was not a failure despite low voter turnout.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, blamed the nation’s elections authority for the meager participation in Sunday’s plebiscite, saying it had done a poor job of organizing it.
“The media is going to say, ‘failure.’ When will a democracy fail? Never,” Lopez Obrador said at his regular morning news conference, held on this occasion in the western resort city of Puerto Vallarta.
An overwhelming 97.7 percent majority responded “yes” to the vague question posed in the referendum: “Are you in favor of … undertaking a process of shedding light on the political decisions taken in past years by political actors” that would be aimed at “guaranteeing justice and the rights of potential victims?”
Just 1.5 percent voted “no” and 0.7 percent of the votes were considered invalid.
But only about 7 percent of eligible voters participated in the plebiscite, well below the 40 percent needed for the result to be considered binding.
According to the National Electoral Institute (INE), only 6.6 million of Mexico’s 93 million eligible voters took part, far fewer than the 37 million required.
“What occurred … was really very important and exemplary,” AMLO said. “It’s a victory that 6.6 million citizens participated yesterday, regardless of how they decided to vote, and with how confusing the question was.”
He also recalled that another referendum will be held in March 2022 on revoking his presidential mandate and said he is convinced that many more people will vote on that occasion.
Initially, the referendum championed by Lopez Obrador was to have asked voters whether five living former presidents – Carlos Salinas, who governed from 1988 to 1994; Ernesto Zedillo, 1994-2000; Vicente Fox, 2000-2006; Felipe Calderon, 2006-2012; and Enrique Peña Nieto, 2012-2018 – should be investigated for alleged corruption and electoral fraud, as well as rights abuses associated with the state’s longstanding war on drug cartels.
But the Supreme Court modified the question to preserve the presumption of innocence.
The head-scratching question that ended up on the ballot left Mexicans divided between those who believed the referendum could do away with the country’s historical impunity and those who thought it was absurd to vote on whether or not the law should be enforced.
During the press conference, AMLO harshly criticized the INE for allegedly not doing enough to encourage high turnout.
“They had no enthusiasm for this referendum. They haven’t had any enthusiasm for democracy. They pretend to be democrats,” he said.
Lopez Obrador championed the referendum but did not cast a ballot, saying vengeance is not his strong suit. He also never clarified what the consequences of the plebiscite would be.
In that regard, he said Monday that the low turnout would not impede the possibility of future trials because authorities “have the right to act on judicial matters whenever there’s evidence.”
AMLO’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), for its part has announced the formation of a truth commission to investigate past administrations. EFE