Mexico: Calder贸n declared victor; L贸pez Obrador pledges challenge

From the New York Times, links and annotation added:

MEXICO CITY, July 6 鈥 Felipe Calder贸n, a conservative former energy minister, won a narrow victory in the race for president today after election officials finished their official tally, but his leftist rival vowed to go court and demand a recount.

Although a special elections tribunal still must ratify the results, the Federal Electoral Institute said its official count of tally sheets from polling stations, carried out over two days, gave Mr. Calder贸n a 243,000-vote lead over Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City who has championed the cause of the country’s poor.

A smiling Mr. Calder贸n told reporters: “It’s been a process that has been carried out sticking scrupulously to the law, and how great that this is not just a democratic country, but one with the rule of law, and, most of all, certainty.

But Mr. L贸pez Obrador said the election had been riddled with irregularities and the official count could not be trusted. He said he would challenge the result in court and ask for the ballot boxes to be opened and the votes recounted. He also called on his supporters to rally in the historic central square of the capital on Saturday in a show of strength.

“We cannot accept these results,” Mr. L贸pez Obrador, 52, declared. He added: “We are going to ask for clarity. We are going to ask for a vote count, polling place by polling place.”

[…]

Mr. L贸pez Obrador’s decision not to concede defeat signaled the country was far from having a new president. It also meant the special seven-member tribunal set up to handle electoral disputes would end up deciding whether there would be a recount.

Leaders of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s Party of the Democratic Revolution have complained that, during the official tally on Wednesday and today, local election officials ignored their demands that packets of votes from polling places that they thought had unusual results be recounted.

Aides to Mr. L贸pez Obrador said he would argue in court that a recount was needed because poll officials had tossed out large number of ballots 鈥 904,000 鈥 because they could not tell in the intention of the voters. These null votes would be enough to change the results of the election, they argue.

Mr. L贸pez Obrador is also likely to point out that mistakes were discovered in the few cases in which election officials recounted votes from a particular polling place during the official tally. Many of those mistakes hurt Mr. L贸pez Obrador and benefited Mr. Calder贸n.

As he pulled ahead during the official tally, Mr. Calder贸n said in the predawn hours this morning that he would fight tooth and nail to keep his victory, however narrow. He and his partisans in the National Action Party have accused Mr. L贸pez Obrador of seeking to annul what they consider a legitimate victory with a court challenge.

“We are going to defend the votes and I ask you all to be alert because we are going to call on all of you to make sure these votes are not canceled, that they are not thrown the trash and that no one tries to negate for caprice or for ambition the what 41 million Mexicans have decided,” Mr. Calder贸n said.

Mr. L贸pez Obrador’s decision to hold a rally on Saturday suggested that the leftist candidate would use huge street demonstrations to put public pressure on the court to grant his request. He has a history of using marches to protest what he has considered fraudulent elections that did not go his way. [A reference to the 1994 Tabasco gubernatoral race, which really was stolen by Roberto Madrazo鈥擶W4R] He also used large demonstrations to beat back an attempt to knock him off the ballot with a legal challenge last year.

“Building a democracy has cost a lot in this country and we are not going to give it up easily,” said Federico Arreola, a campaign adviser to Mr. L贸pez Obrador. “There is no reason for L贸pez Obrador to back out or defend a system that he doesn’t belong to.”

The Federal Electoral Institute will submit the final vote count to the Electoral Tribunal for approval on Sunday, usually a pro-forma process. Mr. L贸pez Obrador then will have four days to present his case for a recount.

Prominent Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska noted her own personal experience with electoral irregularities in the daily La Jornada July 4. VivirLatino provides this translation:

Just before 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 2nd, Paula Haro, my daughter, and Lorenzo Hagerman, my son in-law, stood in line to vote on Avenida Revoluci贸n, at the Casa de la Cultura Jaime Sabines. Since Paula and Lorenzo don’t live in Mexico City but in M茅rida they looked for a special polling place and I accompanied them before I went to my polling place in la colonia del Carmen. By 2:00 pm they (Paula and Lorenzo) still had not voted (because the polling place opened late and there were a lot of voters), as two police officers counted those who were waiting in line out in the sun and said “There are only 750 ballots so there aren’t enough.” In the line appeared a whole bunch of nuns (some about 80 years old) and none of them were denied voting, but at 2:30 p.m. the rest of the line had to give up their chance to vote (after waiting for several hours) because of the lack of ballots. While many went over to the entrance door to yell “We want to vote, we want to vote”, they had no other choice than to disperse.

This was no isolated case and there are more and more reports like this, on top of those that have reported that even with a voter registration card in hand their names were not on the list. If we add together all those who weren’t able to vote for one reason or another — which is in and of itself a violation of their civil rights — wouldn’t the results (which according to the IFE has Calder贸n leading by 385,000 votes) be reverted?

If we add to this the months of the television terror campaign in which Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador was presented as the greatest danger, and if we add as well the threats of loss of homes and belongings, the conspiracy and the purchase of votes done in the old PRI style, the daily slandering, and all the ruses of the past that the PAN brought back to life, all the illegal interventions on the part of President Fox causing perennial interruptions in the elections, we Mexicans might have woken up to just another Monday, July 3rd, and not this one which seeks to give us more of the same.

Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador has been, in addition, victim of “friendly fire” from the so-called revolutionary left. If [left-wing spoiler candidate] Patricia Mercado would have been as gracious as Heberto Castillo in 1988, who recognized defeat by Cuauht茅moc C谩rdenas, it would be impossible to disguise the difference in votes in favor of Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador. However, we can’t despair nor resign ourselves. Not all is done. We are mobilized, we have the power of response, we aren’t going to accept that ballots be burned like in 1988, our indignation is red hot, and we are still volcanos under the white summit of Popocat茅petl and Ixtac铆huatl.

Her last line seems to predict a social explosion. We may see by the protest march which Lopez Obreado has called for Saturday if her prediction will be cindicated.

See our last post on Mexico.

  1. “The shadow of ’88”
    La Jornada writes July 5 that citizens have reported discovering trash bins filled with ballots in the impoverished Mexico City barrio of Bordo de Xochiaca, where the capital’s major garbage dump is located.

    On July 4, La Jornada‘s editorial was headlined, Collapse of the IFE,” charging the Federal Electoral Institute with having destroyed public confidence in the system. In an accompanying opinion piece entitled “The Shadow of ’88”, Luis Hernandez Navarro writes that “The list of anomalies is enormous,” and concludes:

    “Mexico is now living through a new 1988. In that time of the “decline of the system,” the triumph of [PRD candidate] Cuauhtemoc Cardenas was stolen. This July 2 a technical coup d’etat of the right sought to steal the victory frm Lopez Obrador. But the country of 2006 is not that of 1998. Today we have an experience of organization and resistance that did not exist then… Let nobody call a trick what will happen over the next days.”

  2. More details
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 9:

    On July 6 Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) officially declared former energy secretary Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of the ruling, center-right National Action Party (PAN) the winner of the July 2 presidential election. According to the IFE’s count, Calderon had won 35.89% of the 41 million ballots, followed by former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) with 35.31%. Former Tabasco governor Roberto Madrazo Pintado of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico 1929-2000, trailed with 22.26%, followed by Patricia Mercado of the Social Democratic and Campesino Alternative with 2.7% and Roberto Campa of the New Alliance Party (PANAL) with 0.96%.

    Lopez Obrador (widely known by his initials, AMLO), immediately announced plans to challenge Calderon’s narrow victory–by 0.58%, just 243,934 votes–before the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Branch of the Federation (TEPJF). Calderon is not officially president-elect until the court has ruled on the challenges. (La Jornada, July 7)

    The July 6 announcement that Calderon had won followed numerous charges of irregularities, manipulation and outright fraud. The IFE’s preliminary count, completed on July 3, gave Calderon a lead of about 1% but turned out to have omitted some 2.58 million votes. On July 4 election materials, which are supposed to be preserved until the process is complete, were found outside a garbage dump in Nezahualcoyotl, a Mexico City suburb in Mexico state. “Delegate Zero,” formerly “Subcommander Marcos” of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), charged that IFE president Luis Carlos Ugalde and Mexican president Vicente Fox Quesada had a “reserve” of 1.5 million votes of deceased or absent voters that they used to give Calderon the victory.

    Lopez Obrador’s main demand is for a “vote by vote” recount, which the IFE says it cannot authorize, although apparently the TEPJF can. Lopez Obrador’s totals went up on July 5 when a relatively small number of disputed ballot boxes were unsealed and recounted, leading many analysts to think he would win in a complete recount. A July 7 editorial in the New York Times, which generally supports the pro-neoliberal PAN, backed the Mexican left’s call for a recount; otherwise, the paper said, the next president might not have “the aura of authority necessary to govern effectively.” (LJ, July 5, 7; NYT, July 6, 7)

    As many as 500,000 Lopez Obrador supporters held a massive demonstration in Mexico City’s huge Zocalo plaza on July 8 to support their candidate’s demand for a recount. “No to fraud,” and “You’re not alone,” the crowd chanted as Lopez Obrador announced plans for a “national march for democracy” to start on July 12 in each of the country’s 300 election districts, converging on Mexico City on July 16 for a march from the National Museum of Anthropology and History to the Zocalo. (LJ, July 9)

    The July 2 elections also included balloting for the federal Congress and for the governors of three states and the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). According to the official IFE count on July 7, the PAN won 206 of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, followed by the For the Good of All coalition–the PRD and the smaller Workers Party (PT) and Convergence party–with 160 seats. The Alliance for Mexico–the PRI and the small Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM)–won 121 seats. The PAN increased its representation by 28.2% and the PRD by 21% over the 2003 elections, while the PRI, which won 224 seats in 2003, found its representation cut in half. The count for the Senate was not complete as of July 9, but the IFE projected 53 seats for the PAN, 38 for the PRI coalition, 36 for the PRD coalition and one for PANAL. (La Cronica de Hoy, Mexico City, July 8)

    The PAN won the gubernatorial races in Guanajuato, Jalisco and Morelos. The PRD continued its control over the DF, which it has governed since 1997. The For the Good of All coalition won 36 of the 40 seats in the DF Legislative Assembly (city council), and PRD candidate Marcelo Ebrard was elected government head (mayor). (LJ, July 3)

    The PRD–founded in 1989, a year after former Michoacan governor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano lost his bid to unseat the PRI in elections many Mexicans considered fraudulent–is now the country’s second-place party, leaving the PRI in third place. Some PRI politicians seem to looking for a new affiliation. Organizers of the July 8 rally for Lopez Obrador played a tape allegedly of a phone conversation that longtime PRI politician and National Education Workers Union (SNTE) general secretary Elba Esther Gordillo had with the PRI governor of Tamaulipas, Eugenio Hernandez Flores, before the election. “The PRI’s collapsed,” Gordillo said. “So we need to know how to proceed… It’s better for you [the governors of Tamaulipas and Coahuila] to go ahead, if you decide this, with Felipe [Calderon], to sell what you may have–the PRI’s collapsed, eh?” “No, this is very clear to us,” a man identified as Gov. Hernandez answered. (LJ, July 9)