Thousands protest against electoral overhaul in Mexico. Twitter/@Arturo_Sarukhan

Numerous Mexican cities have seen large-scale protests against what protesters say are government attempts to undermine the electoral authorities.

The largest occurred in Mexico City, where organizers estimate that 500,000 people marched through the city's main plaza. The local government put the number at 90,000.

Lawmakers voted to slash the budget of the National Electoral Institute (INE) and cut its staffing last week.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador accuses the INE of being partisan.

Opponents, however, claim that the most recent decision was an assault on democracy itself and are pleading with the Supreme Court to overturn them as unconstitutional.

Large crowds congregated on Sunday in Mexico City's famed Zocalo Square. In the city's center, the demonstrations spread to nearby streets.

"We're fighting to defend our democracy," protester Veronica Echevarria was quoted as saying by Reuters. She was wearing a cap emblazoned with the words "Hands off the INE". Many demonstrators carried cards with a similar slogan.

Many other towns held smaller, peaceful protests as well.

Following a comparable vote in the lower house of parliament, the reforms were passed by the Mexican Senate on Wednesday. The reforms will come into force once they are signed by President López Obrador.

Will Grant, the BBC's correspondent in Mexico, claims that it is perhaps the most polemic political issue in Mexico at present, BBC reports.

After two earlier failed attempts, López Obrador was chosen as president in July 2018. He has long been critical of the INE, whose employees supervise elections.

Last month, he accused the independent body of cheating, and said its staff turned a blind eye to "the stuffing of ballot boxes, falsification of [election] records and vote buying."'

In his first run for the presidency, in 2006, he fell short of defeating his conservative rival Felipe Calderón by less than one percentage point.

López Obrador steadfastly declined to accept the outcome, which he called fraudulent, for months.

He also disputed the outcome of the 2012 election, when he lost to Enrique Peña Nieto.

Since his win in 2018, López Obrador has been pushing for a reform of the INE, which he says will save taxpayers $150 million (£125 million) a year by drastically cutting the agency's staff.

A 58-year-old psychologist from Mexico City who was taking part in the demonstration, Veronica Echevarria said she was worried Lopez Obrador's overhaul of the INE was an attempt by him to take control of the electoral authority so he could stay in power, reports IB Times.

"We're fighting to defend our democracy," she said, wearing a cap emblazoned with the words "Hands off the INE."

Fernando Belaunzaran, an opposition politician who helped to organize the protests said, "Normally presidents try to have governability and stability for their succession, but the president is creating uncertainty," "He's playing with fire."

He said over 500,000 people had gathered in the capital to oppose the changes.

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