Mexico’s electoral crisis: Chiapas next?

From AP, Aug. 22:

Close election in Chiapas spurs another protest
TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, MEXICO – The dispute over Mexico’s presidential vote took a new twist Monday as a gubernatorial candidate backed by the ruling party vowed to protest a state race where the main leftist party held a slight edge.

As supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador clogged the country’s capital with protests to demand a recount of the July 2 presidential election, President Vicente Fox’s party cried fraud and demanded a recount in Sunday’s governor’s race in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state.

Preliminary results in the southern state showed little more than 2,000 votes separating the two candidates. Both claimed victory late Sunday and held celebrations within blocks of each other.

With 94 percent of 4,761 polling places counted, Juan Sabines of Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, was leading with 48.39 percent, or 517,129 votes. Jose Antonio Aguilar Bodegas had 48.17 percent, or 514,743 votes.

Aguilar, a 56-year-old lawyer and former federal senator, is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, but also is backed by Fox’s conservative National Action Party, which formed a last-minute alliance with the PRI.

Margarita Moya, a spokeswoman for the state’s electoral institute, said officials expected to finish the preliminary count Monday but would not announce a winner until late in the week.

Aguilar told reporters early Monday that his party’s own tallies showed he had won by more than 5,000 votes. He said his party had found irregularities with 10,000 votes. He planned to file complaints with electoral officials, and possibly would take his case to the Federal Electoral Tribunal, if he is not declared governor-elect. “The election was extremely tainted,” he said, echoing similar claims made by Lopez Obrador against the PAN in the presidential election. (El Universal, Aug. 22)

In the fiercely traditional Tzotzil Maya town of San Juan Chamula, an angry crowd delayed the start of voting and surrounded local PAN representatives, arguing ballot papers were tampered with. They later allowed the vote to go ahead. (Reuters, Aug. 20)

Chamula is traditionally a PRI bastion, but the last-minute alliances made for some confusion. The conservative PAN and Nueva Alianza (PANAL) actually joined with the Mexican Green Ecology Party (PVEM) to support the PRI ticket. The Por el Bien de Todos coalition backing Sabines includes the Workers Party (PT) and Covergencia alliance as well as the PRD. (La Jornada, Aug. 20; EFE, Aug. 19)

The rebel Zapatistas abstained from the elctions, and calm was reported in their areas of control. (El Universal, Aug. 21) Statewide, an abstention rate of 50% was reported. (EsteSur, Aug. 22)

Meanwhile in Mexico City, Lopez Obrador, said that “civil resistance” would continue “to the ultimate consequences.” While assuring that it would remain a “pacific movement,” he asserted: “The most important changes in Mexico have never come through conventional politics, but in the streets… Mexico needs a revolution.” (Notimex, Aug. 21)

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