Mexicans vote on Sunday in a national referendum hosted by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on whether to investigate and prosecute his predecessors for alleged corruption.
Lopez Obrador, a self-proclaimed anti-graft activist, says the public consultation will strengthen participatory democracy, but critics see it as little more than a political coup.
To be binding, 37.4 million people – 40 percent of the voters list – must participate, but many voters seem reluctant.
While the “yes” could win up to 90 percent, it will be difficult to achieve even a 30 percent turnout, said Roy Campos, director of polling firm Mitofsky.
Rosario Gomez is among those planning to vote in one of the 57,000 ballot boxes set up by the electoral institute, against more than 160,000 for the legislative and local elections in June.
“It’s time for those thieves to pay!” said the 52-year-old market seller.
– ‘Political circus’ –
Mexico is ranked 124th out of 179 according to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index.
But former presidents can be tried like any other citizen, and critics argue the referendum is unnecessary.
“To wait for the results of a consultation is to turn justice into a political circus,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, regional director of Human Rights Watch, based in New York.
The former president of the National Electoral Institute, Luis Carlos Ugalde, argued that if the prosecution has evidence against the ex-presidents, it is not necessary that “people tell you yes or no”.
Although the vote was an original idea of Lopez Obrador, he has ruled out voting himself because he does not want “corrupt and hypocritical conservatism” to accuse him of revenge.
The referendum question proposed by Lopez Obrador named five predecessors – Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto, whose terms spanned from 1988 to 2018.
Lopez Obrador accused them of presiding over “an excessive concentration of wealth, monumental losses to the treasury, privatization of public property and widespread corruption”, prompting furious denials.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court amended the referendum question for a more ambiguous alternative.
“It’s not very sexy. Even lawyers don’t understand it, ”analyst Paula Sofia Vazquez told AFP.
– ‘Final straw’ –
The question reads as follows: “Do you agree or not that the relevant actions be taken, in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework, to undertake a process of clarifying the political decisions taken in recent years by political actors, aimed at to guarantee justice and the rights of potential victims? “
Lopez Obrador has overseen a series of referendums since taking office on controversial issues, including his “Maya Train” railroad project and the cancellation of a partially completed airport for Mexico City.
The result of Sunday’s vote is expected to be known between 48 and 72 hours after the polls close at 6:00 p.m. (11:00 p.m. GMT).
Omar Garcia, a survivor of the disappearance and alleged murder of 43 students in 2014, allegedly at the hands of corrupt police officers and drug traffickers, said listening to people was valid even if it wasn’t compelling.
“It encourages an end to impunity,” Garcia said.
But Monica Ortiz-Monasterio, 59, does not intend to vote and thinks it is “the last straw to ask if crimes are prosecuted or left unpunished”.
© 2021 AFP