Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday celebrated a landslide win in a referendum on his leadership which he himself called and accused the electoral authorities of trying to undermine the vote amid a very low turnout.
(Reuters).- Nearly 92% of voters backed Lopez Obrador to stay in office in Mexico’s first-ever recall election, which he said was a vital confirmation of his democratic mandate.
But turnout in Sunday’s vote was close to 17% of registered voters, the National Electoral Institute (INE) said, well below a threshold of 40% for the result to be binding.
Lopez Obrador called the vote a “total success,” describing participation levels across Mexico as proof of widespread support despite what he described as attempts by the INE to stymie the referendum, which it has repeatedly denied.
The president has frequently clashed with the INE, and in recent weeks accused the institute of siding with his critics who widely discouraged supporters from voting.
Last month, Lopez Obrador said he would send a proposal to Congress aimed at letting citizens elect electoral authorities, sparking concerns the move could presage a power grab.
“The INE’s attitude is very unfortunate … a paradox, that the ones who should be promoting democracy are acting un-democratically,” he told a news conference.
He added that the vote went smoothly in spite of “deceit and boycott from the INE.”
Despite both critics and supporters alike viewing Lopez Obrador’s victory as a foregone conclusion, the overwhelming vote of support underlines his domination of a polarized political agenda in Mexico.
The ballot had fed speculation it could open the door to extending presidential term limits, now limited to a single six-year period, although Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said he is not seeking to extend his term.
Lopez Obrador has used the referendum to fire up supporters and test his strength ahead of gubernatorial elections in June.
“This is something unprecedented … reaffirming that it’s the people who rule,” he said. Slightly more than 1 million people cast ballots against him, compared with more than 15 million who voted in favor.
Political analysts have said Lopez Obrador is also likely to seize on the result as a personal triumph in his bid to push a constitutional change to the electricity market through Congress in the coming week, although he appears to be short of votes.
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