Friday, June 14, 2024

Chamber of Deputies resorts to lottery to elect new INE chief

A Sonora woman with links to the ruling Morena Party government has been elected as the new president of the National Electoral Institute (INE). 

While she is the first woman to be chosen as leader of the autonomous elections oversight body, what perhaps makes Guadalupe Taddei Zavala’s election most memorable is the way in which she was selected.

Guadalupe Taddei
When Taddei was head of the Sonora Electoral Institute, the National Action Party accused her of favoring Morena and its allies in 2021’s state electoral process. On Friday, PAN president Marko Cortés acknowledged her electoral experience but said the way she was chosen was a “severe blow to our democracy.” (IEE Sonora)

Taddei will replace Lorenzo Córdova at the helm of Mexico’s electoral agency next week after her name was drawn out of a transparent lottery box in the Chamber of Deputies in the early hours of Friday morning. 

If that sounds like an unusual way to appoint the country’s electoral chief, that’s because it is. 

Party leaders decided to use sortition – also known as selection by lottery and selection by lot – to elect the new INE president and three new electoral councilors since none of the candidates had the support of the required two-thirds of lawmakers in the lower house of Congress. 

An agreement between the parties that would have allowed that level of support for four consensus candidates never materialized. As a result, sortition was used to elect an INE president and councilors for the first time.  

Chamber of Deputies in Mexico
After they were unable to reach a two-thirds majority for any candidates for the open positions, the Chamber of Deputies voted to use sortition, i.e., a lottery, to fill the slots. (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

The Morena party, which along with its allies has a simple majority in the Chamber of Deputies, were likely happy to resort to drawing lots because the majority of the 20 candidates for the four positions – all of whom were nominated by a “technical committee” earlier this month – are close to their party, the newspaper El País reported.  

Taddei, an experienced electoral official who formerly headed up the Sonora Electoral Institute, will begin her nine-year term next Tuesday. The fact that she is the first woman to head up the INE complies with a recent Federal Electoral Tribunal gender parity ruling.

President López Obrador, an outspoken critic of Córdova, expressed his approval of her election at his regular news conference on Friday morning. 

“She’s an experienced woman. … She’s professional, honest, incapable of acting like the outgoing [INE] president,” he said. 

Chamber of Deputies Mexico
National Action Party federal deputies documenting the state of the lottery box (tómbola) used to randomize the drawing of candidates. (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

Taddei’s election as electoral chief comes five weeks after Congress approved a major electoral reform package that critics say will significantly weaken the INE and one week after the Supreme Court suspended the application of the reforms in question.   

López Obrador, who put forward the so-called “Plan B” electoral reform package after more ambitious legislation was rejected, has been accused of attempting to seize control of the INE or make it more favorable to the ruling Morena party in the lead up to next year’s presidential and congressional elections. 

That perception is likely to grow due to the fact that Taddei has family links to both the government and Morena. 

A cousin of the soon-to-be INE chief is the government’s super delegate, or social programs chief in Sonora, a nephew was last year named head of the new state-owned lithium company, and a niece is a Morena deputy in the Sonora Congress. 

Labor Party Deputy Magdalena del Socorro in Chamber of Deputies choosing INE leader by lottery
Labor Party (PT) Deputy Magdalena del Socorro supervises the lottery box containing lots representing each candidate for INE chief and INE ministers. (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

While serving as president of the Sonora Electoral Institute, Guadalupe Taddei faced accusations from the opposition National Action Party (PAN) that she favored Morena and its allies during the 2021 electoral process in the state. She has denied claims of political partiality.

The three new electoral councilors elected by sortition early Friday are Jorge Montaño Ventura, Arturo Castillo Loza and Rita Bell López Vences.  

Montaño, an electoral crimes prosecutor in Tabasco, has expressed support for the federal government’s electoral reform, while Castillo, a sociology teacher, said in an interview during the candidate selection process that he was in favor of austerity at the INE, a position in line with López Obrador’s support for cuts to the electoral authority’s budget. 

López Vences, who has a master’s degree in constitutional law, has served as an electoral councilor in her home state of Oaxaca. 

Mexico Deputy Santiago Creel
Federal deputy Santiago Creel about to open Taddei’s sealed ballot.(Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

PAN national president Marko Cortés said on Twitter that the election of the new INE officials by sortition was “a severe blow to our democracy.”

The party said in a statement that it would challenge the appointment of Taddei and Montaño due to what Cortés described as their “clear links” to Morena. 

“We acknowledge that Guadalupe Taddei Zavala … has electoral experience, but we also point out that it’s completely unacceptable that the person who seeks to preside over our electoral umpire is clearly linked to Morena,” the PAN said.  

With reports from El Economista, El País, El Financiero and Reforma

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