Mexico: electoral crisis deepens

Both left-populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and right-technocratic Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) continue to claim the victory in Mexico, while the Federal Electoral Institute conitinues to tally the vote three days after the July 2 presidential elections. Reuters, July 5:

Lopez Obrador, who has a long history of launching street protests, called on electoral authorities to be thorough in the recount.

“The stability of the country is at stake,” he told a news conference. He said there had been “manipulation” of the preliminary results. “We can prove that, we have all the elements,” he said.

Initial results had showed Calderon with a lead of under one point and both men have claimed victory.

Mexico’s stock index dropped 2.23 percent and the peso also fell against the dollar because of the political tension.

The Washington Post is predicting a legal battle. July 4:

Felipe Calderon, a free-trade booster who wants to increase Mexico’s presence in the global economy, held an ultra-thin lead of one percentage point over populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in preliminary presidential election tallies released Monday.

Teams of lawyers are girding for a massive challenge of the results, threatening a crisis reminiscent of the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election. Legal experts and campaign strategists here say the winner of Sunday’s ballot might not be officially declared for up to two months.

A preliminary, uncertified count by Mexico’s electoral authority shows Calderon with 36.38 percent of the vote and Lopez Obrador with 35.34 percent. But the electoral authority, which will begin its official count on Wednesday, will eventually cede control of the contest to a special elections court.

The elections court, known as the Federal Judicial Electoral Tribunal, has until Sept. 6 to certify a winner and has powers equivalent to those of the U.S. Supreme Court as the final arbiter of election disputes.

“This is going to take a long, long time,” Manuel Camacho Solis, a top adviser to Lopez Obrador, said in an interview late Monday. “Our perception is that there have been very important irregularities.”

It was unclear how long it would take the electoral authority to complete its official count. But campaign strategists for Lopez Obrador have already compiled an extensive list of alleged election law violations and irregularities that will most likely form the foundation of their legal challenge. The centerpiece is their contention that 3 million ballots are missing and have not been counted. They contend that the Caldero’n campaign offered access to social programs to win votes – a practice that two independent studies prior to the election said was employed by all three major parties. And they also allege that votes for Lopez Obrador were shaved off the rolls in his home state of Tabasco.

Camacho Solis said the Lopez Obrador campaign has considered mobilizing peaceful demonstrations to protest the results but has not yet done so. The streets were mostly calm Monday here in the capital.

Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, himself a harsh critic of Lopez Obrador and the PRD and an advocate of non-electoral paths to social change, told the Mexico City micro-broadcaster Radio Insurgente July 4 that the Zapatistas have received reports of electoral fraud. Transcript via Chiapas95:

SCI Marcos: “We want to share a report that the Sixth Commission [the Zapatista delegation now in Mexico City] received. According to the report there has been a fraud in the elections for president of the Republic. The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), in complicity with, or better said, with the sponsorship of the president of the Republic, held back between one million and one-and-a-half million votes so that they could be added to benefit the National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderon.

“According to this report, on (Sunday) afternoon between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Vicente Fox called (Luis Carlos) Ugalde, the IFE president, to ask him to change the entry of results of the PREP, the Preliminary Election Results Program, in such a way so that the first results entered came from the polling places that benefited Felipe Caldero’n and, that later they would create other votes for him. According to this report, the candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), would have had between one million and a million-and-a-half votes more than the National Action Party. But thanks to this play the results are being changed to exactly what they want them to be. It remains to be seen what the PRD and its candidate will say about this.

“If you have any doubt, if you saw it on television yesterday, look at the message by IFE, by the president of IFE, by Mr. Ugalde. Immediately after that, in fractions of a second, came the message by Vicente Fox, already answering the first message. It’s clear that he knew beforehand what the IFE would say before the president of the Institute said it. And so according to the report we received they made an agreement to conduct this fraud and be able to impose Felipe Caldero’n. That is the report.

“We are not in the electoral vibe. But due to ethical and moral reasons, as Zapatistas, if we see something that is wrong, well, we have to say it, and what we are seeing is what they are doing, a fraud there up above. You are listening to Radio Insurgente, the voice of the voiceless.”

Fred Rosen, writing for the daily El Universal July 2, noted that the country narrowly averted chaos on election day. The results indicate the chaos may have been merely forestalled. In addition to the crisis around the rebel village of Atenco in Mexico state, the teachers strike in Oaxaca and growing mobilizations in support of the Zapatista rebels, Rosen notes that following deadly repression against striking miners earlier this year, potential is growing for a national wildcat strike across all industrial sectors:

Meanwhile, the dissident trade unionists of the National Workers Union (UNT), the key members of a coalition called the National Front for Labor Unity and Autonomy (FNUAS), had threatened a nationwide work stoppage this week in support of union independence from government control.

The FNUAS was formed earlier this year to demand the immediate restitution of the president of the National Mineworkers Union, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, and the dismissal of Labor Secretary Francisco Javier Salazar, who had summarily removed Gomez Urrutia from office on the grounds that he had allegedly misappropriated union funds.

The UNT, led by Francisco Hernandez Juarez, president of the powerful Telephone Workers Union, had been threatening a general strike – a cutoff of essential services precisely during the week of the elections – to pressure the federal government to respect the union’s (and any union’s) ability to choose its own leadership.

Earlier this week, however, Hernandez Juarez announced that the general strike had been postponed “for lack of conditions.” The national elections, the union leader was suggesting, were too legitimate to be interfered with, no matter how just the cause.

See our last posts on Mexico, and the electoral crisis.