Tens of thousands of people packed the Mexican capital's main boulevard Sunday to protest President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's proposal to overhaul the country's electoral authority in the largest demonstration against one of the president's efforts during his nearly four years in office.
The massive turnout was a strong rebuke of the president's assertion that criticism comes only from a relatively small, elite opposition.
Opposition parties and civil society organizations had called on Mexicans to demonstrate in the capital and other cities against proposed electoral reforms that would remake the National Electoral Institute, one of the country's most prized and trusted institutions.
López Obrador sees the institute as beholden to the elite, but critics say his reforms would threaten its independence and make it more political. The initiative includes eliminating state-level electoral offices, cutting public financing of political parties and allowing the public to elect members of the electoral authority rather than the lower chamber of Congress.
It would also reduce the number of legislators in the lower chamber of Congress from 500 to 300 and senators from 128 to 96 by eliminating at-large lawmakers. Those positions are not directly elected by voters but appear on party lists and get seats based on their party's proportion of the vote.
The proposal is expected to be discussed in Mexico's Congress in the coming weeks, where the president's Morena party and allies hold an advantage.
López Obrador has spent decades battling electoral authorities. He considers himself a victim of electoral fraud on multiple occasions, though it was the National Electoral Institute that confirmed his landslide presidential victory in 2018.
Organizers have said the march is not against López Obrador, but to draw attention to the proposal and to urge lawmakers to vote against it.
López Obrador's party does not have enough votes to pass the constitutional reform without support from the opposition.
Last week, López Obrador dedicated a good part of his daily news conferences to dismissing the promoters of the demonstration, calling them "cretins" and "corrupt," aiming to trick the people. He defended the proposal as seeking to reduce the electoral authority's budget and avoiding "electoral fraud."
While agreeing that some cost savings could be desirable, some analysts worry eliminating the state electoral offices would concentrate power too much at the federal level and sacrifice efficiency.
Selecting members of the Electoral Court and leadership of the institute by popular vote would give the parties more power to pick candidates. The proposal would also reduce the number of members on the institute's council from 11 to seven.
Patricio Morelos of Monterrey Technological University pointed out that with López Obrador enjoying high popularity and his party controlling most of Mexico's 32 state governments, they would have an advantage if the electoral authority is remade and would likely exert control.