Bush v. Gore ... with Cilantro?

Cross Posted at The Great Society

Over the past week or two I became clued into the election happening in Mexico. The countries politics still live in the shadow of 71 years with a single eminent political party (the PRI, or Institutional Revolutionary Party), yet the PRI will continue to lose power for the second straight election. Two days after the election ... that is about all that is clear . The two candidates outside the PRI are the rightist Felipe Calderon (of the PAN, National Action Party) and leftist Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (of the PRD, Democratic Revolutionary Party). The race between that has been so bitter and incisive that is has been called the dirtiest election in Mexican history. Not surprising is that Calderon has brought in Texas based political consultant Rob Allyn (of George W. Bush in 2000 fame) to run his day to day operations and advising from none other than Dick Morris. As Dan Lund pointed out in a editorial in the Miami Herald:

Morris is the guy who claims to have written the "campaign book" for Fox in 1999-2000, and is now spreading tail feathers about his role in the Felipe Calderón campaign...

The book is that of a relentless negative campaign, using all forms of media, electronic and informal -- all, at a cost that simply cannot be met by other campaigns. This campaign book has become the choreography of a strange Morris dance that enables the very different factions and interests to hold together and focus on the real enemy, namely Andrés Manuel López Obrador.>

Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, came in to the election as one of those most popular figures in Mexican politics. Yet, Calderon has been relentless. He often compared Obrador to Hugo Chavez and even Fidel Castro.

Now down to the nitty gritty. As of Election day the vote is too close to call and both sides are claiming victory. So there are now ballot boxes under armed guard waiting to be recounted by election officials from the Mexican Elections Institute (IFE) under the watchful eye of members of the parties involved and election observers. But Mexican election law doesn't stipulate automatic manual recounts. The election official must first compare the tallies and measure for inconsistencies or tampering. Obrador's party is refusing to accept any result until a full ballot by ballot count of every box, which is a request that can not be granted by law ... at least at this time. What is happening right now is the check of each ballot box that was scheduled to last until Saturday, at the maximum. By Sunday the IFE has to, by law, name a President-elect.

The length will be determined by how many disputes there are and how many recounts happen at this stage (because of tampering or irregular tallies). The Obrador camp is disputing everything it can and Calderon's side refuses to acknowledge any discrepancies. Don't think that a named President-elect will actually resolve this matter because if the result is to be contested further it must go before the Federal Election Tribunal, a clearing house for all electoral issues in the country. It is this court that can order a ballot by ballot recount. Also, don't worry about a "Safe Harbor" as used by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore because Vicente Fox doesn't step down until December. This fight could, and probably will, last the summer. The final ruling of the Federal Elections Tribunal must happen by August 31st and final winner will be announced September 6th.

This is the largest test that the IFE will have to go through since its creation in 1989 following the elections the year before. Its early years were hampered by interference from the executive branch. It has faced many rounds of reform; the last being in 1996 when all ties between the IFE and the executive were cut. This election will test the entirety of it's processes. Whoever does come out of this election as president will face a deeply divided legislature and a lack of credibility. Party unity in Mexico has never been consistent and with a wounded executive it will be a very difficult environment to create substantive legislation. While nothing will be decided today or this week (Unless someone pulls a Tilden v. Hayes compromise out of thin air) this is watershed point for the countries democracy.

All of this hoopla will probably mean little in the relationship between the US and Mexico because of NAFTA and many various working agreements between various police and security forces along the border. Obrador, as Chris Bowers points out, is following a trend of rejecting the trade policies that have been implemented the last 12 years. Obrador is skeptical of trusting the market to create jobs and keep Mexico's economy healthy and wants the government to become more involved in job creation. He is nowhere near as leftist as Hugo Chavez is, but it is interesting how he will change Mexico's relations with Venezuela and Cuba and that part of his own coalition if he is elected.

Calderon has been declared the winner ... yet this election is so far from over. Obrador continues to call for the hard recount. More to come ... I'm sure.

Tags: Foreign Elections, Mexican Politics (all tags)

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