Polling stations for next week’s vote on the future of the new Mexico City airport (NAICM) project will be concentrated in regions where the soon-to-be ruling Morena party has newly-won strongholds.
According to the incoming government’s plan for the public consultation called México Decide, 309 of the 538 municipalities where the vote will be held were won by president-elect López Obrador and Morena’s candidates for state governor in the July 1 elections.
Jesús Ramírez, spokesman for López Obrador, said last week that the municipalities had been chosen because they are the 538 most populous in the country and are home to 82% of people on the electoral roll.
But not all of the municipalities selected fit the population criteria.
In Chiapas, where López Obrador enjoys particularly strong support and Morena’s gubernatorial candidate, Rutilio Escandón, triumphed on July 1, polling stations will be set up in 67 municipalities, some of which have populations under 30,000, such as Sabanilla and Ángel Albino Corzo.
In Veracruz, where Morena’s candidate Cuitláhuac García Jiménez won the governorship with 44% of the vote, the airport consultation will take place in 99 municipalities, more than any other state in the country.
Among those selected are Alto Lucero de Gutiérrez Barrios, Cerro Azul and Naolinco, all of which have populations below 30,000.
In contrast, only 11 municipalities in Jalisco, Mexico’s fourth most populous state, have been included.
While López Obrador won the popular vote in the western state, Morena’s candidate for governor lost out to the Citizens’ Movement party contender.
The municipalities of San Juan de los Lagos and Tala, with populations of 70,000 and 80,000 respectively, both missed out on selection for the October 25 to 28 consultation.
At least four municipalities in Guanajuato with populations greater than 80,000 were also excluded. A stronghold of the National Action Party (PAN), Guanajuato was the only state in Mexico where López Obrador didn’t win the popular vote.
Residents of municipalities not included in the incoming government’s plan will have to travel if they wish to have their say on whether the current project should continue or whether two new runways should be built at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base in México state.
In Mexico City, where Morena’s Claudia Sheinbaum will be sworn in as mayor on December 5, residents of all 16 boroughs will have the opportunity to cast a vote where they live.
In López Obrador’s home state of Tabasco, where Morena’s Adán Augusto López won a commanding victory in the gubernatorial race with 61% of the vote, 18 municipalities will host ballot boxes.
However, there are only 17 municipalities in the Gulf coast state.
Polling stations will also be set up in 67 municipalities in México state, the country’s most populous entity, in 27 Oaxaca municipalities, in nine out of 11 municipalities in Campeche and in eight out of 11 in Quintana Roo. Morena fared well in congressional and municipal elections in all four states.
Reaction to the public consultation on the airport has been mixed. Some citizens have welcomed the chance to have their say while others believe that they are not qualified to make an informed decision.
Some have questioned the consultation’s legality.
But future transportation secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú today rejected any suggestion that the vote is illegal.
“We’re absolutely convinced that it is not illegal. It’s a consultation that is not set out in [Mexico’s] laws . . . It doesn’t have a legal foundation but in no way is it an illegal consultation,” he said, adding that the decision to hold the vote was taken personally by the president-elect.
In any case, the result of the vote is legally non-binding, meaning that the government theoretically does not have to follow the people’s lead although López Obrador has stressed that their view will be respected, a position confirmed by Jiménez today.
“. . . He has decided that the opinion of the community is going to be binding . . .” he said.
A recent poll conducted by the newspaper El Financiero showed that 62% of respondents were in favor of the project continuing while just 27% wanted it to be canceled.
An advisory council created to conduct the consultation process held a press conference earlier this week to reveal the question on the ballot. It reads, “Given the saturation at the Mexico City International Airport which option do you think is better for the country? (a) recondition the existing airport and that in Toluca and build two runways at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base; (b) continue with the construction of the new airport in Texcoco and discontinue using the existing Mexico City International Airport.”