Mexican Election Chaos

In an election with the polls this close, with such great differences between the two candidates, with massive class and cultural differences between the supporters of the two candidates, in a country with a history of rigged elections (though mainly carried about by PRI, the party that finished in third place), something like this was almost bound to happen. From the Guardian: Mexico's hero of the downtrodden, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has ordered nationwide marches to converge on the capital on Sunday in what could be the biggest demonstration in modern Mexican history.

The former leftwing mayor of Mexico City rallied 150,000 followers on Saturday to press for a recount of the presidential election, which his supporters believe was stolen. The official count of the July 2 presidential poll gave the governing party candidate, Felipe Calderón, a victory of about 0.6%, or less than 244,000 votes. The count was based on adding up the vote tally sheets from polling stations on election night. The rallies seem to be getting larger than the figure cited above. Legal challenges loom: Mexico's young democracy entered uncharted territory Sunday as the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) put the finishing touches on what officials said would be 152 lawsuits aimed at overturning results of the July 2 presidential election.

Top leaders of Mexico's left-leaning party, known by its Spanish initials PRD, are challenging the count in all 300 of Mexico's electoral districts. Sunday was the opening shot fired in what is sure to be a nasty legal battle to challenge conservative Felipe Calderon's narrow 0.58 percent margin of victory.These challenges could lead to a Constitutional crisis in Mexico López Obrador added a new layer of complexity to the crisis by saying he not only would challenge the results in the country's special elections court but also would attempt to have the election declared illegal by Mexico's Supreme Court. That strategy presages a constitutional confrontation because according to many legal experts the special elections court is the only body that can hear election challenges.: Now, Lopez Obrador has produced some rather stunning evidence: MEXICO'S disputed election took another startling turn when leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador produced telephone recordings he said proved a plot between rival political parties to deny him the presidency.

In a dramatic moment during a massive rally in Mexico's largest public square at the weekend, members of Mr Lopez Obrador's campaign played the recordings over loudspeakers.

"The group that has political and economic power is accustomed to winning at all costs," Mr Lopez Obrador told the crowd, which police estimated at 280,000. "The only thing that matters to them is their privileges."

The two recordings were said to be of conversations between a state governor belonging to the rival Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as the PRI), a union leader in the PRI and a minister in the Government of current Mexican President Vicente Fox, who represents the conservative National Action Party.

The conversations, which allegedly took place on election day before vote counting began, implied that the PRI would try to fraudulently swing votes in favour of conservative candidate Felipe Calderon because it was clear the PRI's candidate would not win.

The phone conversations are the closest thing Mr Lopez Obrador, the leader of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, has had to a smoking gun in his effort to prove fraud in the presidential election held on July 2. Whether or not there was fraud, I don't know (how could I know?) However, there is an interesting precedent in this election: Mr Lopez Obrador has used protests in the Zocalo, the central square in front of the National Palace in Mexico City, to great effect in the past.

Last year, he mobilised more than a million supporters to protest against an attempt to disqualify him from the presidential race over a minor land dispute.

In the wake of the public display, Mr Fox backed off, paving the way for Mr Lopez Obrador's candidacy. The leftist remains wildly popular in Mexico City, where he served as mayor from 2000 to last year. Anyone who thinks this is over is not paying attention. Anyone who thinks that whoever eventually becomes President will have an easy time is crazy. This is going to be a long, hot summer in Mexico:HIS election provoked wails of grief and cries of "fraud!" in Mexico's slums and impoverished countryside. In upmarket neighbourhoods and boardrooms his apparent victory induced deep sighs of relief.

If he withstands legal challenges, president-elect Felipe Calderon will preside over a country that hasn't been this openly divided since the bloody, 10-year Mexican Revolution of 1910.

The closest election in Mexico's history has ripped open long festering differences that separate Mexico into north and south, rich and poor, light-skinned and dark-skinned, employee and employer. The implications of this election are massive. Fasten your seatbelts.

Tags: Foreign Elections, Mexico, recounts (all tags)

Comments

13 Comments

Hard to govern with 35/35/25 split

With the Presidential vote in Mexicao split three ways, it will be pretty hard for any candidate to govern. The Mexican 20th Legislatura (Congress) resulted in 206 seats for the PAN; 160 for PBT (Obrador) and 121 for la Alianza por México (PRI).

Presumably Calderon would require the assistance of the PRI deputies.

by MetaData 2006-07-10 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Hard to govern with 35/35/25 split

the mexican system is even more "strong-president" than the American system.  any president can get a lot done regardless of whether or not he controls Congress.

by lorax 2006-07-10 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Hard to govern with 35/35/25 split

Another example of why runoffs are needed if no candidate gets a majority.

by antiHyde 2006-07-10 01:51PM | 0 recs
Fraud Evidence

Believable evidence of fraud is important, because accusations are cheap. Obrador is accusing the PRI of colluding with PAN and other irregularities.

El Universal reports that the most striking flaws presented by Obrador were ballot stuffing and incorrect counts especially in the Northern areas where they didn't have enough poll-watchers:


Entre las principales impugnaciones, dijo, las más destacadas son: relleno de urnas, conteos equivocados, "toda esta tarea que se dio en el norte, sobre todo con la complicidad de los gobernadores priistas que trabajaron para Felipe Calderón o trabajaron para su partido, particularmente en Sonora, donde desafortunadamente tuvimos poca presencia en las casillas, no sabemos exactamente a qué se debió, pero nos falló 70% de las estructuras en las casillas", señaló.

The New York Times did observe some irregularities during the official count. A small sample of opened ballot boxes in a North Mexico precinct had 100% mistake rate:


Six ballot boxes were opened for a recount in District 8 because of errors on the tally sheets. In every case, the preliminary tallies turned out to be wrong.

In one case, polling workers had miscounted so badly that they gave 100 extra votes to a third candidate, Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and doubled the 235 votes for Mr. Calderón. Mr. López Obrador's count was not affected.

by MetaData 2006-07-10 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

I read an article by an economist who claimed that in public opinion polls the Mexican election commission enjoys 96% confidence, higher than even the Catholic church, owing mainly to the fact that they have trained millions of ordinary local citizens to handle the elections.  So does Mr. López Obrador's protest insult these millions of regular Mexicans?

by jwb 2006-07-10 07:36AM | 0 recs
I urge everybody to check out Greg Palast's...

coverage of this election, which is stellar as always.

As an aside, why on earth doesn't he guest diary here?

He'd be a great addition as, unlike others, he has all the facts and documentation to back up his reporting and can provide scans and such.

-C.

by neutron 2006-07-10 09:28AM | 0 recs
Additionally.

I have to say that I love that Obrador is fighting this, but keeping it peaceful... it's what Big John SHOULD have done in 2004.

-C.

by neutron 2006-07-10 09:29AM | 0 recs
Oh, Mexico...

I read the first sentence and thought they were talking about this country...

by schroeder 2006-07-10 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

Apparently, this won't drag out forever - according to what I have read, Mexican law dictates that someone must be declared the winner - regardless of any appeals - by Sept 6th. But, the next 2 months are going to be ugly.

by RepTroll 2006-07-10 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

Mexico's system of government is nearly identical to that of the US.  The 20th century PRI presidents were powerful because the PRI dominated Congress (there were no oppositions Senators, and only a few token opposition members of the House), which turned that institution into a rubber stamp.  But even then, term limits and the PRI machine kept presidential power in check.

In 1988 the PRD was the victim of a fairly obvious fraud, kept quiet for the sake of national unity, and was rewarded with having many of its activists killed by death squads.  They are simply not going to do this again.

Americans should be paying attention to this.  Its not as clear cut that we had a fraudulent result in 2004, but there is some strong evidence (see the latest book, "Was the 2004 elections stolen?").  This is something the ruling party can only do so often before it undermines the legitimacy of the entire system.

by Michels 2006-07-10 07:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

Of course the way to save democracy is to subvert it.  

by Classical Liberal 2006-07-11 04:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

Has anyone else noticed that in the American media, Calderon is being called "the winner of the Mexican election" and "President-Elect"?  I've even heard this on NPR.

The other really upsetting thing is that GW Bush called Calderon to congratulate him.  Can you imagine the outcry if that sort of thing went the other way?  

So - does anyone else sense that the fix is in on this from the American media elite?

by Darkhat 2006-07-11 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Mexican Election Chaos

by Darkhat 2006-07-11 07:19AM | 0 recs

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