MEXICO CITY, Nov. 13 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands took to the streets in Mexico on Sunday to protest President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to overhaul the country’s electoral commission, INE, which they say will put power in the government’s hands would focus.
Lopez Obrador, who unveiled the plan in April, has long criticized the country’s electoral authorities, blaming them for helping to cause his defeats in his 2006 and 2012 presidential bids.
He said the reform would allow citizens to choose electoral bodies and reduce the influence of economic interests on politics. It would also cut funding for political parties and limit advertising time.
Last week, Congress began discussing the plan.
It sparked widespread concerns that the changes could herald a power grab as they give the president more control over electoral systems.
In the past, Lopez Obrador has pursued a controversial policy of holding popular votes – including the cancellation of a partially built airport – to claim popular mandates for his goals.
Protesters in Mexico City, many carrying placards and banners or T-shirts that read “Defend the INE,” began at the Angel of Independence monument.
It gained momentum throughout the day as protesters moved down Reforma Avenue towards the Revolutionary Monument.
A Reuters witness estimated that tens of thousands of protesters had taken part, while a police officer on Reforma who witnessed the march estimated 50,000.
Organizers put the number in the hundreds of thousands, but some of Lopez Obrador’s political allies gave far lower estimates.
It is one of the largest demonstrations against Lopez Obrador’s policies to date.
“Democracy in Mexico is under threat,” said Ana Lilia Moreno, an economist who was taking part in the march in the capital with her eight-year-old daughter.
“I hope that many young people – and also those who are not normally interested in politics – will participate, that they value our institutions and defend what our parents and grandparents built to mature politically.”
Demonstrators shared images from other cities on social media.
Lopez Obrador posted a video message on his Twitter as he celebrated his 69th birthday – but has not addressed the protests.
His ruling Morena party and its allies would need a two-thirds majority in Congress to make changes to the constitution. The party currently lacks this majority.
Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher, Dave Graham and Carlos Carrillo in Mexico City; Editing by Diane Craft
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