Revoking the Presidential Mandate
Within its legislative agenda, the Senate is expecting to discuss the initiative regarding the revocation of presidential mandate as presented by the parliamentary fraction of MORENA, and approved by the Chamber of Deputies last March.
The original idea, promoted since the campaign of current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador under the slogan “The people place, the people displace,” has faced several critiques from the opposition. In fact, the President himself has agreed with two main critiques: that the midterm referendum should not coincide with the 2021 midterm federal elections, and that the referendum should be convened at citizens' request rather than by Executive Order. The latter is particularly relevant: on one side, it will keep the presidential figure out of the 2021 ballots; on the other, it will avoid the Executive convening its own revocation.
Despite ridding those pitfalls, if the initiative is to be approved as planned, it would contravene basic principles of legal and legislative technique.
The first principle concerns the integrality of the processes. That is, all the stages of the presidential election were fulfilled in accordance with current legislation, and the proof of majority vote was certified and delivered to President López Obrador for the period between December 1, 2018 and September 30, 2024.
Incorporating the mandate-revocation exercise in 2021 will alter a process that has already been finalized and validated by the people.
This leads to a second principle, that of the non-retroactivity of the law. Giving effect to the initiative for this sexennial period would contradict this principle, since it would be modifying the conditions under which Mexicans voted last year.
A third principle refers to the generality of the law, that is, not to legislate with a personal agenda. The minutes approved by the deputies in regards to this initiative, benefit (or damage, in this case) President López Obrador.
In any case, if the legislators consider the mechanism appropriate, it should take effect sometime during the next administration, regardless of who is head of the Executive branch.
Revoking the presidential mandate is not the best way for a president to be held accountable, nor to process their departure. Taking international experience as reference, we must acknowledge that Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela are the only Latin American countries that allow for the revocation of presidential mandate.
Advanced democracies safeguard the citizen vote by counting on mechanisms for resignation, dismissal, and even impeachment, under very specific provisions stated in the law.
The Bonilla case – The Electoral Court of the Federation ratified the validity of the election for the governor of Baja California for a two-year period, from 2019 to 2021. The ruling thus confirms that the rules of an electoral process cannot be altered for the benefit of the winner. Precisely, the arguments facing the revocation of presidential mandate.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
About the Author
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more