Mexican Senate blocks absentee voting by those abroad

Move denies participation in 2000 presidential race

July 03, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican Senate quietly shelved a proposal Thursday night to allow millions of Mexicans living abroad to vote by absentee ballot, denying the franchise to a potentially large bloc of voters in next year's presidential election.

Mexican activists in the United States who had lobbied for the absentee vote were furious at being excluded from the 2000 ballot. Many blamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which has ruled for 70 years. But other parties also drew criticism for failing to get the bill passed.

The opposition-controlled lower Chamber of Deputies had approved a package of electoral reforms in April, including absentee voting rights for millions of Mexicans who are abroad and who possess valid voting credentials.

But the PRI used its majority in the Senate to block the package of reforms, declaring that the complex bill's many measures contained "very serious technical and legal errors."

That action prevents the absentee ballot provision in the bill from winning approval at least one year before the presidential vote, as required by the constitution. The election is scheduled for July 2, 2000.

What especially angered the U.S.-based Mexicans was that Thursday's action came despite a chorus of support for absentee ballot rights voiced recently by all the major parties.

"Obviously, there is a major lack of will in the official party to convert itself into a truly democratic party," said Rafael Castilla Peniche, a deputy from the conservative National Action Party and author of the absentee ballot proposal.

The Federal Electoral Institute estimated that of the 6.1 million Mexicans living in the United States who retain Mexican citizenship, only about 1.5 million have official voting cards, as required under the Chamber of Deputies' proposal.

Pub Date: 7/03/99

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