Symbolic Victory

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador overwhelmingly won Sunday’s recall referendum, a plebiscite that he himself had proposed to ask voters whether he should step down or continue his six-year term, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The country’s electoral agency said that more than 90 percent of voters chose to allow the president to complete his term, which will end in 2024. But officials noted that the referendum was marked by a very low turnout of less than 18 percent of eligible voters.

More than 40 percent of people have to vote in order for the referendum to be legally binding.

López Obrador pushed for the recall vote, even though the populist leader, who was elected by a landslide in 2018, enjoys approval ratings above 60 percent.

His opponents criticized the referendum as a sham and urged voters not to participate in it. The plebiscite marked the first recall vote in Mexico’s history following a legal change in 2019.

Analysts explained that the vote was an attempt by the president to mobilize his supporters as he enters his fourth year in office ahead of gubernatorial elections in June. They noted that López Obrador will use the victory as a way to promote his agenda for the remainder of his term.

The leader is planning a series of changes, including a bill to amend the constitution to give the state electric utility, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), control over the country’s power sector. He is also proposing a major overhaul of the electoral agency.

Since his election, López Obrador has cut the salaries of top government officials and increased social spending, including hiking pensions for the elderly and pushing through annual increases in the minimum wage.

But his presidency has been also been plagued by a lagging economy and rising violent crime, and he has worked to weaken the country’s freedom of information institute, along with other autonomous watchdogs and regulators.

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