July 2023 | Electoral authorities sanction president over attacks on opposition
On 13 July, the National Electoral Institute (INE) took decisive action amid an escalating dispute between President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, which had been ongoing since early July. The feud was marked by allegations of public slander, private financial data disclosure, and direct criticism in Obrador's daily press briefings, or 'mañaneras', leading INE to issue an order prohibiting the president from commenting on potential candidates for the 2024 elections. This intervention was triggered by a complaint from Gálvez, who accused Obrador of misusing state resources and perpetrating "political gender-based violence". Upon investigation, the INE found that Obrador's comments violated principles of neutrality, impartiality, and fairness, leading to the removal of several press conference videos from July. Despite the ruling, Obrador continued his criticisms, promoting further action from an electoral court on 2 August. The ruling deemed Obrador’s actions as "gender-based violence" and issued another order for him to cease this behaviour. The president has been accused of breaching electoral laws by using 'mañaneras' (publicly funded broadcasts) to target the opposition. He denies these allegations and, claiming an infringement on his freedom of expression.
June 2023 | Supreme Court invalidates second part of Plan B electoral reform
On 22 June, Mexico's Supreme Court (SCJN) invalidated the second part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's 'Plan B' electoral reform, effectively annulling the entire proposal. This decision followed the court's previous invalidation in May of the first part of the reform. In both rulings, the SCJN focused primarily on the legislative procedure rather than the content and implications. The decree sought to limit the National Electoral Institute’s (INE) ability to organize elections by reducing the number of offices and staff in its headquarters and the country's 300 electoral districts, and to limit INE's supervision and auditing roles. The SCJN declared that the decree’s approval had entailed "serious violations of the legislative process", contravening articles 71 and 72 of the federal constitution, which emphasize the principle of democratic deliberation. The Court further noted that equal participation of all congressional groups was not guaranteed due to the initiatives not being published in time for comprehensive review and being rushed without meeting urgent criteria. Following the SCJN's announcement, Morena (ruling party) leaders confirmed that a 'Plan C' is underway, though its specifics remain unclear.
May 2023 | Supreme Court invalidates part of ‘Plan B’ electoral reform
On 8 May, nine out of 11 Supreme Court (SCJN) justices voted to invalidate part of the ‘Plan B’ electoral reform proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), due to serious violations of the legislative process. The ruling revokes changes to legislation limiting the National Electoral Institute’s (INE) ability to oversee political communication. However, it does not affect the second part of the reform package, including budget cuts for INE, which remains suspended by the SCJN since March and will be considered at a later date. The Court’s decision was largely praised as a successful check on executive power. However, the ruling has been criticized by members of the ruling party, MORENA and exacerbated tensions between the executive and SCJN. In response to the ruling, AMLO announced a new initiative to elect SCJN justices through popular vote. This has raised concerns about potential politicization of the judiciary and impact on judicial independence. According to President López Obrador, the initiative would enhance transparency, democratic participation and reduce corruption within the judiciary.
April 2023 | Supreme Court rules against enhanced militarization
On 17 and 18 April, Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) issued two rulings that reduce some of the power the military had recently been granted. Firstly, the SCJN limited the armed forces’ ability to intercept communications between citizens. It comes amid recent revelations that the current government and military have spied on journalists, human rights activists, and opposition politicians and that the Mexican military was ‘the first and most prolific’ user of the Pegasus spyware, which had been allegedly used to spy on civilians as recently as the second half of 2022.
Second, the SCJN declared that transferring control of the National Guard (GN) from the Public Security Ministry to the defence ministry (SEDENA) was unconstitutional. Government officials had claimed that the GN needs to be under the control of the military to prevent corruption and guarantee the force’s professionalism.
Although President López Obrador criticised the SCJN, the decisions have been received positively by national and international leaders.