Copyrighted material


by Diego Cevallos

on Mexico's election crisis

(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's electoral court declared conservative candidate Felipe Calderon president-elect Tuesday, after validating the results of the July 2 presidential elections.

Adopted unanimously by the seven-judge electoral court, the resolution cannot be appealed, and there is no other institution for the left to turn to in order to press forward with its charges of fraud.

The leftist Coalition for the Good of All, made up of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and small allied parties, reiterated however that it has sufficient legal arguments to refuse to concede defeat, and said it will continue to wage its struggle in the streets.

The coalition also warned again that a people's assembly would appoint an "alternative government," headed by its presidential candidate, Andres Lopez Obrador of the PRD.

Calderon, representing the governing National Action Party (PAN), won the election with 14.9 million votes -- just 233,831 more than former Mexico City mayor Lopez Obrador, according to the vote count that was certified by the electoral court. He is scheduled to take office on Dec. 1.

The court also said that while it had detected irregularities in the elections and the campaign, such as "undue intervention" by President Vicente Fox and the business community in favour of Calderon, these were minor and did not alter the final outcome.

But PRD lawmaker Raymundo Cardenas said "It is pathetic that the court resolution has established that President Fox and private business violated the election laws with their statements in favour of the PAN candidate, but nevertheless decreed that Calderon is president-elect."

In the streets around the electoral court building, some 200 supporters of Lopez Obrador shouted that the ruling amounted to "theft."

"The fraud has been consummated, the coup d'etat, because in the eyes of the world it has become clear that the Fox administration and the institutions worked together to make sure our candidate lost," said PRD activist Alfonso Palacios. "This is an outrage that we will never accept."

Lopez Obrador's advisers said he would be speaking out against the "fraud" within the next few hours, and would announce the strategy he plans to follow.

Political scientist Jorge Chabat said that as a result of the court ruling, the left is faced with the choice of following the route marked by the institutions or protesting in the streets, while the right will have the challenge of cobbling together an inclusive government capable of winning the cooperation of the opposition.

If Lopez Obrador insists on playing outside of the institutional channels, the PRD -- which is now the strongest opposition force in the legislature and holds several state and city governments -- will be punished at the ballot boxes in the future, as has already been indicated by opinion polls, said Chabat, a researcher with the Center for Economic Research and Teaching who writes as a columnist in several local media outlets.

The leftist coalition brought a number of legal challenges before the electoral court charging that the elections were flawed by ballot stuffing and other forms of fraud, and should be annulled.

Their demands have been accompanied by mass street protests and a month-long sit-in on one of Mexico City's main avenues and the central square.

But although the court said it found evidence of irregularities, it said they were minor, and blamed them on "human error" rather than fraud.

With respect to the left's accusations that the government's social programs were used to favour Calderon, and that Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the powerful teachers' union, made illegal efforts to get out the vote for the PAN candidate, the court said it had found no evidence of either.

And with regard to the dirty war that Lopez Obrador said he suffered in the media at the hands of his adversaries, the judges said such tactics were brought to a halt weeks before the elections by the Federal Electoral Institute. They also noted that similar attack ads were used by the left.

"We respect the ruling, but we regret it, because we do believe dirty tactics were used against the left, which has good reason to feel wronged," Patricia Berumen, spokeswoman for the New Millennium Foundation, told IPS.

"We continue to give the benefit of the doubt to the charges brought by the left. But I must also acknowledge that our election observers, within the limited scope of their work, did not find evidence of widespread fraud," said Berumen, whose non-governmental organization deployed 718 observers in the July elections.

Guadalupe Arellano, head of the National Women's Civic Association, said her group was satisfied with the ruling "because it is well-founded and strengthens Mexico's institutions."

"What is regrettable is that the left refuses to recognize it," she commented to IPS. "That is why we are calling on the left to see sense and remember that this court and all of the electoral institutions were designed and approved with its help and even its leadership."

Arellano's association, which has been observing elections in Mexico since the late 1980s, received training and advice from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) before placing 886 election observers in the field in July.

The group reported that it detected no widespread problems in the elections that would have modified the final outcome.

However, the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange said its observers found evidence of irregularities at each of the 60 voting stations where its observers were posted, including "polling places with more ballots cast than registered voters, intimidation, vote-buying, the unauthorized intervention of political leaders and a lack of knowledge among volunteer poll workers." The group called for a total recount of the votes.

And while European Union observers said the elections were clean, they also were in favour of a vote-by-vote recount, as demanded by the leftist coalition, although it did not actually file a legal challenge demanding a total recount.

Andrew Selee, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, said election observers neglected some districts because the possibility of widespread fraud was never even contemplated.

According to Lopez Obrador, the observers "observed but did not see anything" on Jul. 2. Something similar must have happened with the delegates that the leftist coalition itself posted at the polling stations, because they ok'd the vote tallies.

Berumen and Arellano concurred that all of the political actors should now behave "with generosity" to prevent a further escalation of the conflict.

The activists both urged Calderon to assume as his own Lopez Obrador's campaign pledges of greater social justice, while they called on the leftist candidate to eschew violence and press his demands through legal channels.

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Albion Monitor   September 5, 2006   (

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