MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Senate on Tuesday approved a controversial constitutional change that would give the public a chance to vote again to either retain or remove a president halfway through their six-year term.
The controversial plan for a “recall vote” now goes to the lower chamber of Congress, where it is expected to pass given the large majority held by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s leftist MORENA party in both houses.
Lopez Obrador vowed when taking office in December to hold the recall vote, but opposition lawmakers are concerned it will entrench the popular president and potentially undermine a current ban on a leader serving more than one term.
The Senate approved the measure with 98 votes in favour, 22 votes against and 1 abstention. Under the proposed changes, if conditions for a vote recall are met, citizens will have a chance to vote again on Lopez Obrador in March 2022.
“The people give and the people take away, even the President of the Republic,” said MORENA Senator Ana Lilia Rivera.
Critics say the mid-term presidential vote would let Lopez Obrador put himself at the centre of the campaign for mid-term elections for the lower chamber of Congress, which are due to be held around June 2021.
They also worry the measure could be used to encourage support for permitting a president to be reelected for a second term. The ban on presidential re-election has been a principle of Mexican politics since Francisco Madero campaigned in 1909 against Porfirio Diaz, who had kept a grip on power for three decades.
Opposition lawmaker Miguel Angel Osorio from the PRI party said the recall should be applied only under “extreme situations where there is a crisis of legitimacy” and not to extend the presidential term.
Lopez Obrador proposed in June holding a recall referendum on his presidency on March 21, 2021 if Congress could not agree to the constitutional change.
Several Latin American presidents have changed laws to allow reelection, including leftists Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
Former right-leaning Colombian president Alvaro Uribe also engineered a constitutional change so he could run for re-election.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Lizbeth Diaz; editing by Jane Wardell)