President López Obrador and other politicians affiliated with the ruling Morena party have violated the electoral silence law several times in the lead-up to the referendum on the president’s leadership.
A so-called revocation of mandate referendum at which citizens will have the opportunity to vote in favor or against López Obrador completing his six-year term will be held April 10.
A veda electoral, a ban on political campaigning and advertising as well as promotion of the referendum that applies to politicians at all three levels of government, took effect February 4 and will remain in place until voting ends on the second Sunday of next month.
The Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) has confirmed six breaches of the ban that were first flagged by the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is organizing the April 10 vote.
Two related to remarks López Obrador made at his regular news conferences in February and two others related to the president’s dissemination of information regarded as political propaganda during a trip he made to Sonora the same month.
The INE complaints commission has also determined that the president and the federal government have violated the veda electoral several times this month with social media posts. Those breaches have not yet been confirmed by the TEPJF.
The INE has also detected breaches by Morena party senators, 18 governors (some of whom represent other political parties) and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who is considered a leading candidate to succeed AMLO as president.
Sheinbaum said on Twitter Tuesday that she had received a second letter from the INE demanding that she take down social media posts it considers political advertising. She said she would comply with the order but added that she would challenge the ruling because she regards it as “biased and excessive.”
Sheinbaum received a similar order last month and was also warned for verbally promoting her government.
The Congress last week approved a decree that modified the electoral silence law to exempt spoken remarks made by officials, but the TEPJF ruled that the change doesn’t apply to the current electoral period because it was already underway when it was promulgated.
Nevertheless, López Obrador was in campaign mode while at the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport for its inauguration on Monday. He told citizens he would be voting on April 10, a remark that could be considered promotion of the referendum.
The president didn’t speak at the official inauguration ceremony but other officials, including Sheinbaum, spoke in glowing terms about his stewardship of the military-built airport.
Political advertising featuring the slogan and hashtag #QueSigaAMLO (AMLO should continue) has also caught the attention of the INE, which estimated last week that almost 5.5 million pesos (US $272,000) had been spent on billboards, signs and flyers.
Suspecting that funding for the advertising didn’t come solely from everyday citizens, the INE said it was investigating whether any political parties were involved, which would be a violation of the law.
“While citizens have full liberty to express their position on the subject of the revocation of mandate process and to publicly support the president of the republic so that he continues in the position, it must be free of interference, public funding and partisan or government interventions,” the electoral authority said.
The news website Animal Político reported Monday that seniors have received telephone calls, political advertising and home visits urging them to vote in favor of López Obrador continuing as president so that the provision of welfare programs and free COVID-19 vaccines doesn’t cease. If Morena or another political party was involved, that would also constitute a breach of the veda electoral.
“There are a lot of … irregularities generated from the government, from those who promoted the consultation [on AMLO’s leadership],” said electoral issues expert Arturo Espinosa.
“They’ve sullied the [electoral] process. What do I mean by sullied? There hasn’t been fairness, there hasn’t been certainty, there has been intervention by public officials,” he said.
López Obrador has pledged that he will respect the result of the referendum, even if 40% of enrolled voters don’t participate, which would mean that its result is not binding. “If people vote for me to resign, I’ll leave,” he repeated last week.
Members of opposition parties have described the vote as a publicity stunt and say that AMLO will use a low turnout as another reason to attack the INE, an institution of which he is an outspoken critic.
López Obrador has criticized it for failing to adequately promote the referendum – an accusation INE president Lorenzo Córdova has rejected – and has spoken of plans to overhaul it.
The Supreme Court ruled last December that the electoral authority must stage the referendum in April, thwarting its postponement of the vote on the grounds that it didn’t have sufficient funds to organize it. Those funds are controlled by the Congress.
With reports from Animal Político