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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Mexican Election: The Aftermath

According to the Mexican laws governing elections, all the counting of votes is over. However Calderon has not yet won; the IFE must now go through its process and must determine the winner by September 6. We are now in the period in which challenges can be presented to the IFE judges.

A lot can happen between now and September 6, and Obrador knows it. His coalition held a rally in Mexico City (his power base - he was mayor there) this Saturday. They appear to be planning rolling demonstrations, but they also appear to be measuring public sentiment carefully. For example, they are saying that such demonstrations should be peaceful and that roads should be left open. In an early indication of the potential success of this strategy, Mark in Mexico reports that the teachers' demonstration in Oaxaca, which had been called off in the wake of the election, is now back on. Officially this has nothing to do with the election, but in practice it may.

So far Obrador has not said much of substance in public; he merely insists that the election was stolen and makes claims against various organizations and individuals. The claim is that some ballot boxes were recounted, and that he gained votes. But those ballot boxes were recounted legally, because of tally discrepancies. What happens at the polling place is that the votes are counted in the presence of observers from the parties. Each observer gets a copy and a tally is kept with the sealed box. This provides a mechanism for each party to challenge discrepancies in the reported count, and if the box appears to have been tampered with or a discrepancy exists, it will be recounted. Obrador's demand to recount all the boxes is not legal under Mexican law.

Mark in Mexico continues to have excellent coverage of the election. The American papers have bad coverage, and I have given up reading them entirely. El Universal is carrying stories as the situation develops, including the various statements and press conferences on the topic. If you don't read Spanish, try Worldlingo.com's website translator. The translations may not be great, but they will give you an idea of what is really happening.

Obrador and his party delayed a presentation itemizing their claims (that they can mathematically prove that the count was fixed, etc) today, although on Saturday Obrador had said that they would make the claims to the court on Monday, so I am assuming that there is considerable public pressure to show up with something meaty. I'm not getting a good impression of Obrador, because I think he has mistepped considerably by claiming that the IFE had become the ram of the right. There is no evidence yet of this at all, and statements like this might be turning some public sentiment against Obrador. Nor is it politically astute; after all, the IFE's decision in this election is final under Mexican law. Challenging the election is one thing; challenging the integrity of the body deciding the election is quite another.

That presentation has been delayed for several hours, and Obrador is reported to have gone home with his family. A Catholic bishop has said that Obrador has the right to challenge the election (which he does under law, but he must make it to the election courts) in a remarkably careful statement:
Monseñor Carlos Briseño Arch hizo un llamado a la prudencia y a la concordia, al tiempo que exhortó a los mexicanos a respetar el derecho ajeno así como a buscar ante todo la paz y la reconciliación como país.
(a call for prudence and harmony, an exhortation to respect everyone's rights, and for everyone to seek peace and reconciliation for the country. In other words, let's not be hotheads.)
Entrevistado luego de oficiar la misa en la Catedral Metropolitana y en representación del cardenal Norberto Rivera Carrera, quien se encuentra en España en el 5 Congreso Mundial de la Familia, destacó que Andrés Manuel López Obrador está en su derecho de presentar la impugnación de las elecciones del pasado 2 de julio.
(Obrador has the right to present his challenge.)
El obispo auxiliar de México destacó que no hay índices de violencia en el país, y que lo que sucede es que no estamos acostumbrados a una competencia tan reñida, además de que se puede impugnar unas elecciones y que la decisión final está en manos del Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación.
(There are no indications of violence, it is just that Mexico is not used to such a close election. The challenge can be made and the final decision remains in the hands of the IFE.)
“Es una realidad en la democracia acudir a las instancias del tribunal electoral. López Obrador no ha ido hasta el momento en contra de ninguna ley”, externó.
(Until now, Obrador has not violated any law.)
“El tiene todo el derecho a manifestarse, tiene todo el derecho a impugnar si está inconforme; claro, demostrando que existe algún tipo de irregularidades e inconsistencias en las elecciones”, puntualizó el monseñor.
(Everyone has the right to present claims and challenge inconsistencies, demonstrating that irregularities or inconsistencies in the election exist. This struck me as a veiled suggestion to put up or shut up. Below the bishop reiterates that Mexico everyone should seek reconciliation and the common welfare, and this creates an invitation to the citizens and the politicians to pursue an integrated country.)
En este sentido Briseño Arch destacó que lo que se debe de buscar ante todo es la paz y la conciliación, ya que al final de cuentas somos un mismo país y todos vamos “jalando la misma carreta”, por lo que hizo una invitación a la ciudadanía y a los políticos a luchar por la integración del país.

Señaló que la decisión final está en el TEPJF, por lo que se debe dejar que trabaje como ya lo ha hecho el IFE, que cumplió en la realización del proceso electoral del 2 de julio.
The Catholic church in central and southern America has by no means a lock on the population. There are various evangelical churches which in some areas have more adherents than Catholicism. However, the Catholic church is greatly respected. This is hardly an endorsement of Obrador's behavior so far. Obrador's party is called Por El Bien De Todos, or For the Good of All. The nuance of the statement above, as quoted in El Universal, might be read as appealing to the basic concept of that name, a declaration that the rule of law serves the basic concept, and a strong suggestion that certain tactics might violate it.

One puzzling aspect of Obrador's behavior is that his party was left in a pretty strong position by the election results. They did not win the congress, either, but they were a strong second. They ought to be able to negotiate for substantial representation in the government, and such an outcome could be a very good one for Mexico. However Obrador is looking very erratic and hotheaded here, and I wonder if it is not his own personality that cost him the election. I had been waiting to post this hoping for release to the press of Obrador's "proof", but I gave up.

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