Mexico’s incoming president says surveys show support for controversial judicial reforms

MEXICO CITY (AP) — In a move reminiscent of her political mentor, incoming Mexican President Claudia Sheinbaum on Monday displayed a series of surveys commissioned by her political party that she said show a wide majority approve of controversial judicial changes.

Sheinbaum said the surveys were just “informational.” She said the polling was done over the weekend and included face-to-face interviews of thousands of eligible voters across Mexico.

Everyone should do “their own analysis of the results,” she said.

The polls, which are not binding in any way, are a page from the playbook of her political mentor, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will be succeeded by Sheinbaum on Oct. 1.

Critics have questioned the use of the public surveys, calling them more of a public relations ploy to help build momentum to pass legislation.

López Obrador carried out one of his own campaign promises six years ago when he submitted a partially built $13 billion Mexico City airport project to a national consultation between his own election and taking office. That survey also came down on his side and he cancelled the project upon becoming president.

In another survey, respondents overwhelmingly supported his pet project, the Maya Train, which now carries tourists around the Yucatan Peninsula.

When the National Electoral Institute conducted a national referendum in 2021 on whether former presidents should be prosecuted for wrongdoing, voter turnout was so low that it didn't approach the level necessary to make it binding.

López Obrador has said he would pursue 20 constitutional changes after his Morena party won a two-thirds majority in Congress in the June 2 elections. They include making all judges run for election and enshrining a series of unfunded benefit mandates in Mexico's constitution.

The country's judiciary has blocked several of Lopez Obrador’s previous reforms, ruling them unconstitutional.

Sheinbaum’s surveys were conducted through private Mexican pollsters Enkoll and De Las Heras Demotecnia, in addition to her party’s own commission of surveys. She said Morena did not intervene in any way with the different methodologies, giving them autonomy to conduct surveys throughout the country.

Each poll was based on between 1,000 and 1,500 face-to-face interviews conducted between June 14 and 16. They had margins of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The surveys asked five questions, including whether participants knew the party is proposing judicial changes and whether they believe there is corruption within the judicial system.

According to Morena, the surveys say nearly nine in 10 participants want the creation of an independent organization that would investigate and hold accountable judges in any act of corruption.

The U.S. has signaled concern about judiciary changes in Mexico.

Last week, Brian Nichols, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, urged that there be transparency in Mexico’s judicial overhaul, particularly concerning any impact the changes could have on U.S. investors and companies. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, said last week that a strong judicial system was important, but it was up to Mexicans to decide on the changes.

Mariana Martínez Barba, The Associated Press