March and Golden Bureaucracy of the National Electoral Institute

By Bernardo Moreno González

The reform to the National Electoral Institute has finally been published. What was known about it is what the opposition has actively told through some advisers from that institute. The last march «INE will not be touched» stated several points against the reform: 1) It proposes to dismiss trained and professional civil servants replacing them with temporary positions without experience. 2) It allows public officials to campaign while in office. 3) It modifies the organization of the INE just over a year after the presidential election. 4) It reduces surveillance to prevent officials from using public resources for their campaigns. 5) The 300 district boards in charge of using the electoral roll and cartography will disappear. 6) The modules to obtain credentials would be moved to government offices.

These are opposing statements from the political party headed by President López Obrador:

– Regarding the disappearance of the 32 local boards: the INE will have 32 local bodies and up to 300 auxiliary offices at the district level with the General Council determining if these bodies will be temporary or permanent.

– Regarding the disappearance of the 300 district boards: these bodies change their nature but continue to carry out their same functions—radio, television, control, updating of the electoral roll, and operation of the Citizen Attention Modules—it does not cause them to be fired, but redistributes who and how they are organized.

– Regarding the modules that will be moved to government offices: the mechanism for issuing the credential will continue in the same terms. There will be provisions for INE to create more modules if it wishes. They will preferably be installed in public domain buildings and only operated by the INE, in order to reduce costs associated with real estate rentals.

– Regarding the dismissal of 85% of the National Electoral Professional Service: the optimization of 8.56% of senior management positions will be achieved without technical, operational, or field personnel being affected.

– Regarding the fact that the staff of the central offices of the INE will be reduced: it will be INE itself, and not the law that will determine how to optimize its structures.

– Regarding the reduction of the training time to install and operate the polling stations: the reform proposes a reduction of 30 days. They consider that this is possible because in the past mandate revocation process 57,000 polling stations were installed in 45 days while with Plan B this term will remain at 75 days.

– About voting with a passport abroad: the reform provides that this document has been prepared with strict international security measures. The Foreign Ministry would validate the legality of the passport. But that is not why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acquires the powers of the INE.

Where the new reform does not lend itself to interpretation is a hard blow to what has been accurately called the “golden bureaucracy.” Since the government of the fourth transformation began, one of its pillars has been the republican austerity plan. Here are some highlights of that plan: reduce government advertising spending by 50% and cancel all public trust funds; zero bonuses for civil servants; cancellation of private insurance with no individualized separation insurance; and cancellation of pensions to former presidents. These were among 50 other points of the plan. 

In accordance with section II of article 127 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, no public servant may receive remuneration for the performance of his function greater than that established for the President of the Republic. INE protected itself to preserve all its privileges and not be part of the republican austerity with the excuse that it is an independent institution. The reform hits the INE in its privileges: bonuses, private insurance, and those in charge of trans-external positions. There is no doubt the reform touched INE. The protections and constitutional controversies are ending up in courts and a long legal battle is expected which will be resolved in the following months. Currently, INE has to abide by what has been published. One of the hidden characters, who, thanks to the reform, had to leave that institution ipso facto is Jacobo Molina. He was executive secretary of the National Electoral Institute, who was in charge of the entire legal and administrative office of the electoral body. The other was the right hand of the president, counselor Lorenzo Córdova, who, after Jacobo’s dismissal, said publicly: “As president counselor I was, twice, the one who proposed to the general council the appointment of Edmundo Jacobo. I will not allow any arbitrary act of any state power, even Congress, but I am also a constitutionalist and a democrat, and in no country in the world are arbitrary acts of any power used. That is why we are going to defeat all abuse in court.” It is worth mentioning that Jacobo was a great strategist over the past 14 years to improve salaries and benefits of the elite of the institute. His signature appears on the voter identification card of any of us.