Last week, Governor Aristoteles Sandoval sent a proposal to the state Congress that could see the introduction of public plebiscites and referendums, citizen initiatives, as well as reduce red tape for independent candidates standing for office.
Another component of the new Ley de Participación Ciudadana would be the introduction of mechanisms that allow the public to remove officials from their posts, including state governors.
Engaging citizens in fundamental decision making is increasingly seen as a way to overcome public distrust and cynicism in politics, and increase the legitimacy of government.
Interestingly, the congressional committee that will draw up a final version of the new law is headed by Pedro Kumamoto, the 25-year-old who ran as an independent candidate in last June’s state elections and won a convincing victory in the District 10 ward.
The state government’s proposal will be debated in committee alongside the Haz tu Ley proposal drawn up by Kumamoto and the Citizens Movement and another prepared by the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).
After a recent meeting with Sandoval, Kumamoto said he shared many of the governor’s plans for the citizen participation law, and believed it could be ready to send to the floor of the Congress by the end of March.
The idea of citizens having the legal power to remove elected officials from office is a complicated one, some analysts point out.
Sandoval’s draft proposal requires the initial signatures of 1.5 percent of the voting roll, with representation from at least around two-thirds of the state’s 20 districts. Following that, the initiative would need more people to approve destitution than actually voted for that official in the previous election. In the case of Governor Sandoval, it would require more than 1.3 million signatures (the number of votes he obtained in 2012).
Kumamoto said he concurred with Sandoval that the law ought to make it easier for independent candidates to run for office. The business administration student was able win the election with a kitty of less than 300,000 pesos – comprised of small donations – and he accepted just 18,000 pesos in government campaign funding.