June 4, 2016
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – For months, it’s been heralded from the city’s metro stations, bus stops and on main avenues.
“Goodbye DF, Hello CDMX,” the announcements read.
The latter refers to Mexico City’s popular acronym, for Ciudad de México.
The former refers to Distrito Federal, or the Federal District. That’s what this city was formally called before the name change went into effect in January. The Federal District is no more, and Mexico City has newfound autonomy.
And that autonomy comes with a new constitution, which will be written by 100 people. Of those writers, 40 will be chosen by Mexico’s president, Mexico City’s mayor, and members of its legislative bodies. On June 5, the city’s voters will elect the other 60 writers, including those running independently and with political parties.
Twenty-one independent candidates hope to make names for themselves by taking part in drafting the constitution. In total, there are 561 candidates running for the 40 slots.
Such is the case of Fernando Hiram Zurita Jiménez. He has has spent his career in the city’s public sector, including as a general director of the Caja de Previsión de la Policía Auxiliar del Distrito Federal, which is in charge of developing and approving pension plans for Mexico City’s police.
Mar Garcia, GPJ Mexico
Zurita says he wants to assure a better future for his children and grandchildren. But his candidacy has been difficult because he doesn’t think the election has been advertised enough.
“Look, I think it brings very beneficial changes for the population, for the citizenry that was once the DF,” Zurita says.
Some city residents don’t know why the change occurred and aren’t aware that the election for drafters of the constitution is upcoming, he says.
Mexico City’s movement toward autonomy strengthened in the early 1990s, with the creation of the current form of the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District. That assembly was given the power to approve and repeal laws. In 1997, residents of the then-Federal District were able to vote for their own mayor.
In August 2013, the mayor proposed a reform to the Mexican constitution that would make the city autonomous within the republic, with its own congress and constitution.
On Feb. 4, the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE) (the National Electoral Institute) published a press release on the drafting of the constitution, and invited interested citizens to apply to be part of the Constituent Assembly writing the constitution as independent candidates, unaffiliated with a specific political party.
Forty-five people completed INE’s initial requirements and ran campaigns as independents to collect signatures from the required 73,792 citizens, the equivalent to one percent of the number of eligible voters.
As of May 25, only 21 of those independents completed the signature requirement, according to INE, and will be able to see their name on the June 5 ballot.
Among them is Lorena Osornio Elizondo.
Osornio says she knows the city’s needs and is participating because she can provide authentic representation, fight for the ideals of the people and search for alternatives that will always be for their benefit.
“I am tired that in [our] entire life we are complaining and not doing anything. I am doing something,” Osornio says. “I’m not an ordinary politician, I am an ordinary citizen, and I am here with you, seeking your support.”
Osornio says that when she collected her signatures to be on the ballot, many people didn’t even know that the election process was taking place. People questioned why the city would need its own constitution, since they were already operating under the national constitution, she says.
Sergio Abraham Méndez Moissen hopes voters see how independents, including himself, are different in that they care about representing young voters, women and laborers.
“We want to bring a series of proposals to convince millions of people that with this campaign of ours, the anticapitalists, do defend the democratic demands of a more generous democracy,” Moissen says.
The independent candidates say the requirement of gathering over 73,000 signatures was overly onerous, and possibly a ploy by the political parties to decrease independent participation. Members of political parties were not required to gather signatures.
Javier Santiago Castillo, an election adviser at INE, agrees independent candidates are at a disadvantage because they don’t have the structure the established political parties have in promoting their candidacy. Besides, he says, the electoral system in Mexico is designed for political parties.
“It seems excessive to me, but it’s what the law establishes, and I, as a public servant, have to respect the law,” Santiago says.
The candidates who were not able to secure a spot on the ballot had a chance to challenge INE’s decision by requesting a review of the signature counts in case of human error, Santiago says.
A count of the list of candidates shows that 13 people were added after the deadline, suggesting that those people were able to prove that they had the adequate number of signatures.
But others didn’t challenge the process.
Oliverio Orozco Tovar’s candidacy was rejected by INE, but the 28-year-old didn’t challenge the decision.
Mar Garcia, GPJ Mexico
Instead, Sergio Gabriel García Colorado, a 62-year-old university professor and independent candidate, invited Orozco to join his campaign team.
Orozco says the project is bigger than a personal political career. If García wins, Orozco hopes to help reform the candidacy process.
“My primary interest is that they never ask anyone for 73,000 signatures to participate,” Orozco says.
The constitution is intended to assure Mexico City’s autonomy, and Zurita says independent candidates are best suited to ensure that.
“What I do ask of all the people, although they don’t vote for me, if they don’t remember my name, vote for an independent,” Zurita says.
Natalia Aldana, GPJ, translated this article from Spanish.