We are just two weeks away from Mexico’s presidential inauguration where after two failed presidential runs, Andrés Manuel López Obrador will take over as head of state. The president-elect has made a series of polemical decisions and picked some controversial members to his cabinet. Back in July, as the first measure after his victory, AMLO rejected the proposal of 300 organizations to create an independent prosecutor’s office in Mexico and picked Manuel Bartlett—an old school PRI hand accused of being responsible for the country’s presidential election fraud in 1988—to head Mexico’s state-controlled electric utility.
But AMLO’s latest controversy comes in the shape of an unprecedented referendum where Mexicans were asked to decide the fate of a $13 billion project to construct a new Mexico City airport. The referendum itself wasn’t the problem—in fact, AMLO could have very well cancelled the project once in office—what made it so controversial was the organization and the legitimacy of the vote, a process carried outside of the guidelines stipulated in the Mexican Constitution.
The non-binding referendum was arranged privately and without the backing of government institutions, with ballots being set up in just 500 of the country’s 2,448 municipalities. Fewer than 2 percent of citizens likely cast ballots. AMLO has hinted that these referendums will become the new norm in Mexico, but if handled in the same way, will AMLO really be giving the people of Mexico a voice? Or will he use these referendums to do his own bidding?