MEXICO: Huge political crisis rocks country


Richard Moore

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MEXICO: Huge political crisis rocks country

Peter Gellert, Mexico City

Following presidential elections widely viewed as marred by fraud, Mexico¹s 
political crisis not only shows no signs of being resolved, but in fact is 
intensifying almost daily.

In the six weeks since the July 2 presidential elections, two sides have squared
off. On one side are the federal government, its electoral authorities, and the 
conservative National Action Party (PAN) and its candidate Felipe Calderon, 
defending their razor-thin 0.6% margin of victory as the legitimate election 
results. On the other side are the For the Good of All coalition headed by the 
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), its candidate Andres Manuel Lopez 
Obrador (known as AMLO) and the social sectors and mass organisations of most of
the left and progressive movements.

Given the close vote and AMLO¹s charges of electoral fraud, a partial recount of
9% of the country¹s 131,000 polling stations was ordered by the Federal 
Electoral Tribunal. AMLO and his supporters, however, have been demanding a 100%
recount. The recount, which began on August 9, has not resolved the dispute. The
AMLO forces charge serious discrepancies, even on the basis of the small 9% 
sample, among them:

    € In 43% of the sample, Calderon had been accredited with
    more votes than he actually received, lowering his total
    number of votes by 13,500. This was 5000% more votes than
    AMLO lost in the recount.

    € In 65% of the recounted polling stations, there were
    either more ballots deposited than there were voters or more
    voters than there were corresponding ballots. In Mexico,
    control of the paper ballots is extremely strict. In the 9%
    of the polling stations that were recounted, these
    discrepancies involved 120,000 ballots ‹ half the difference
    between the two candidates nationwide across all the polling

    € More than 30% of the supposedly sealed ballot boxes had
    been opened after the elections, raising the spectre that
    their contents were altered.

With the official difference being about two votes per ballot box, AMLO has 
insisted on a full recount and nullifying results in the 7600 polling stations 
of the 9% sample that had discrepancies. If the polling stations showing too 
many or too few ballots in the partial recount were to be annulled, AMLO would 
win the elections.

While the evidence of fraud is circumstantial, it is also strong and, given 
Mexico¹s tradition of fraudulent elections, AMLO¹s charges are considered by 
many to be credible. A poll by the conservative daily Reforma indicated that 65%
of Mexico City residents feel fraud was committed and that all votes should be 

The PRD also charges that Mexican electoral law was violated prior to election 
day by incumbent President Vicente Fox¹s support for Calderon¹s campaign, by a 
particularly vicious media campaign against AMLO (attempting to tie him to 
Venezuela¹s President Hugo Chavez), and by business associations illegally 
placing advertisements on television implicitly attacking the PRD candidate.

Although electoral authorities often forced an end to such practices, the damage
had already been done and the punishment was so ridiculously minimal that there 
was no deterrent to further infractions.

On August 18, a video was played on Mexican television demonstrating the 
existence of a plot against AMLO involving top-level government officials, PAN 
leaders and Argentine-Mexican businessperson Carlos Ahumada, who is under 
investigation for fraud committed against the Mexico City administration. The 
City Prosecutor¹s Office announced it would file penal charges against federal 
government officials who protected or helped Ahumada.

In addition to myriad legal challenges, the PRD and AMLO have waged a mass 
campaign in the streets demanding a full recount. Demonstrations take place on 
an almost daily basis. On July 30, up to 2.4 million people participated in the 
largest demonstration in Mexico¹s history.

While the PRD and the junior partners in its electoral coalition make no claims 
to be socialist or revolutionary, they have nonetheless mounted a strong 
campaign against electoral fraud and have refused to ³negotiate² a solution with
the national government.

Since July 30, thousands of demonstrators have been camped out in Mexico City¹s 
central square and an eight-kilometre stretch along Reforma avenue, a main city 
artery. Federal police have cordoned off the area around parliament with tanks. 
All of this has considerably exacerbated the city¹s already nightmarish traffic.

Besides the continuing occupation of downtown Mexico City, thousands of Lopez 
Obrador supporters are also engaged in daily acts of civil resistance.

The PAN and business associations have called on the Mexico City government ‹ 
which is headed by the PRD ‹ to evict the protesters, however local officials 
have refused. The mass media has waged a campaign against the protests, 
attempting to whip up a backlash among middle class residents inconvenienced by 
the mammoth traffic jams.

As a next step, AMLO has called for the formation of the National Democratic 
Convention on September 16 (Independence Day) to unite grassroots and social 
organisations behind a program not just centred on electoral democracy, but also
addressing the country¹s social problems.

Many far left and social organisations that didn¹t participate in AMLO¹s 
campaign are involved in the anti-fraud protests. Along the eight kilometre 
stretch of encampments, a wide array of neighbourhood associations, unions, 
student groups and political organisations can be found.

Unfortunately, the Other Campaign, an initiative launched by the Zapatista 
National Liberation Army and headed by the charismatic Subcomandante Marcos, 
while condemning the fraud, has abstained from the mass demonstrations. During 
the election campaign, the Other Campaign centred most of its fire on AMLO and 
the obvious deficiencies in the PRD¹s program and methods. Some organisations 
that participated in the Other Campaign are, however, involved in the anti-fraud

If Calderon is declared the victor by the Federal Electoral Tribunal on August 
31 ‹ which most view as the likely outcome ‹ from the word go the new government
will face a bitterly divided country, with major sectors of the population 
questioning the government¹s legitimacy and huge and powerful mass movements 
that consider it their declared adversary.

Major battles are clearly on the horizon in Mexico.
From Green Left Weekly, August 30, 2006.

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