A voter in a Mexican referendum. (AP)

A voter in a Mexican referendum. (AP)

LatAm in Focus: Why Is Mexico Holding a Presidential Recall Vote?

By Carin Zissis

All signs point to Andrés Manuel López Obrador staying in power after the April 10 referendum on his mandate. So why hold it? Gatopardo’s Fernanda Caso explains the debate over the recall.

There's still the matter of the cost. The National Electoral Institute, known as the INE, has been budgeted $77 million to hold the recall-a total that's roughly 40 percent of what the agency estimated it would need. The INE says that means there will be fewer voting booths. AMLO says the INE is trying to hide voting sites' locations. Such tension between the agency and the president are par for the course, given that López Obrador has called for reforms that would see the autonomous INE absorbed into a ministry.

Caso, who served as a representative to the INE for Mexico's first independent presidential candidate Margarita Zavala, says, "Of course, I think the INE has the most to lose in this recall." On the other hand, the Gatopardo podcast host and head of political portal Latitud 3°12 adds that much depends on how things go on the day of the referendum. If turnout is low and the process efficient, the president's suggestions that the electoral agency sought to suppress the vote will ring hollow.

Turnout could well be low. A February El Financiero poll found that 52 percent of Mexicans don't see the recall as necessary. AMLO said he'll recognize the recall results, even if 40 percent of the electorate, the minimum needed for the outcome to be binding, don't show.

And therein lies a question: If interest runs low and the results seem a foregone conclusion, why make the effort and spend the money to hold it? Aside from cementing a record of his popularity, there's the matter of building momentum for upcoming reforms, as well the 2024 presidential vote in which Morena will seek to continue AMLO's political project.

"He's measuring his political allies," says Caso. "The people who want to be the next candidate from his party are [making] big efforts to show him that they have the muscle to bring people out."

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Luisa Leme produced this episode.

The music featured in this podcast is Mexico’s Ónix Ensamble performing Charles Halka’s “Por la fuerza las tierras” for Americas Society. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/jWsPOXVYS8I