Fri, Aug 31, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Leftist Mexican parliament sworn in

BIG CHANGES:Once president-elect Andres Manuel Lobez-Obrador takes office on Dec. 1, he will enjoy an absolute majority in both houses of the Mexican Congress

AFP, MEXICO CITY

Mexico’s first leftist-majority Congress was sworn in Wednesday, swept into office on the coattails of Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s election last month, which punished the country’s political establishment.

Cheering and chanting Lopez Obrador’s name, lawmakers from the coalition led by his Morena party took the oath of office in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, where they will now be the dominant force.

The ceremony in the Mexican Senate was more solemn, but the balance of power there is the same: Lopez Obrador is to be the first president in Mexico’s modern democracy to have an absolute majority in both houses of Congress.

“The people have voted, they have said what they want and that is the road we must now walk,” said Tatiana Clouthier, a close adviser to Lopez Obrador who was elected to the lower house.

The majority’s first legislative priority is to amend the law to allow Lopez Obrador to change the structure of the president’s Cabinet, including by creating a new public security ministry to deal with horrific levels of violent crime, Clouthier said.

“Then we’ll start with other major changes,” she said.

The new legislative session opens tomorrow, but Lopez Obrador will not take office until Dec. 1.

Mexican voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the country’s establishment parties in the July 1 elections, outraged by a seemingly endless string of corruption scandals and record crime driven by the country’s brutally violent drug cartels.

Lopez Obrador won with 53 percent of the vote, more than 30 points clear of his nearest rival.

The former Mexico City mayor whisked the presidency away from the two parties that have governed Mexico for the past 89 years — the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Morena, which Lopez Obrador founded just four years ago, and its coalition allies have 307 of the 500 seats in the lower house and 69 of the 128 seats in the Senate.

It is the first absolute majority since 1994, when Mexico was a one-party state governed by the PRI.

The new Congress is “historic,” said Gerardo Fernandez Norona, a member of the radical wing of Lopez Obrador’s coalition.

The Mexican left “is going to take all those dreams and commitments we’ve been pushing for in decades of struggle, and make them reality,” he said.

The PRI, left licking its wounds, was meanwhile preparing for its newly diminished role as the third force in Congress.

“It’s a new reality. We have to get used to our new place on the political map,” said former PRI leader Rene Juarez, who stepped down after the elections and is now to lead its delegation in the Chamber of Deputies.

“We will be a critical, vigilant but constructive opposition,” he said.

Lopez Obrador appears to be within reach of negotiating a two-thirds majority, which would enable him to change the constitution.

Three parties that ran in an ideologically awkward left-right coalition — the PAN and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution and Citizens’ Movement — have announced that they are breaking up.

That would appear to give the president-elect an easy path to pick up more votes.

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