The Hand That Feeds

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Mexican lawmakers have passed a reform bill that would cut funding for the country’s electoral authority, a move critics warn will undermine the institution’s independence and its ability to organize elections, the Financial Times reported.

The bill is part of a push by populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador following an attempt to amend the constitution that was rejected by lawmakers.

The new bill will slash the budget of the National Electoral Institute (INE), which arranges elections and regulates political activity. The funding cuts also eliminate much of the agency’s professional staff, remove a system for communicating early poll results transparently and restrict the institute’s ability to sanction parties and candidates.

The reform is part of a long-running spat between the INE and the president, who has accused the electoral body of fraud, as well as criticized its large bureaucracy for being bloated and overpaid.

The INE and its predecessor, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), have played a key role in Mexico’s transition from one-party rule to pluralistic democracy, which culminated in the defeat of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary party in 2000.

INE President Lorenzo Córdova warned that the cuts “could put the technical quality of elections at risk and with it the democratic governance we have achieved.”

In recent weeks thousands of Mexicans have taken to the streets to protest the changes, Reuters reported.

Some analysts believe the move against the election body is part of an effort by López Obrador to cut funding from a number of institutions and public trusts to find money for other priorities, such as state oil company Pemex.

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