Mexico on Ice as D-Day Approaches
Felipe Calderon, the candidate backed by the United States in the July 2 presidential election in Mexico, was declared president on September 5 by federal authorities despite widespread tampering with the vote count. He is scheduled to take office come rain or shine December 1.
To avoid any future revelations of what really happened, the same election officials announced they will burn the 41 million ballots, dealing another blow to history and to those who demanded a full recount after Calderon’s razor thin 0.58 percent victory over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
After a month of deliberations, in early August, the seven-magistrate Federal Electoral Tribunal offered to recount only nine percent of the votes, which interestingly dropped Calderon’s 244,000 victory margin by over 10,000 to 0.56 of the ballots cast.
The fact that a recount of a small percentage of the votes showed a tendency favoring Lopez Obrador of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) should have tipped off authorities to the possibility that massive fraud could have taken place.
It doesn’t take a math genius to imagine that if the recount had taken place in the tens-of-thousands of polling stations where Obrador’s supporters alleged big time fraud occurred, the winner might not have been Calderon, the governing right-wing National Action Party (PAN) candidate.
However, as predicted by friends and foes alike, the election officials stood firm on their shaky ground, and their integrity was lost.
CALDERON HOPES AMNESIA WILL SET IN
Between now and his taking office and possibly far beyond, Felipe Calderon and the Mexican political system face an ongoing challenge to their authority.
More than a million supporters of Lopez Obrador held a National Democratic Convention on September 16, Mexican Independence Day, that declared their candidate president. His inauguration is set for November 20, ten days before Calderon will attempt to take office. In an unprecedented action, Lopez Obrador is currently forming a cabinet of his own.
Taking his cue from what occurred for George W. Bush after the 2000 US election fiasco, Calderon is banking that time and the voters return to their daily lives will make them forget how he got into office in the first place or at least resign themselves to it.
The Mexican media loyal to President Vicente Fox, echoed by the US mainstream press, point to polls that show Calderon is suddenly accepted by the vast majority and claim that Lopez Obrador lost much of his support during his prolonged protest.
Therefore, they reason, why not let bygones by bygones. Umpteen pro-big business commentators have recommended to Lopez Obrador that he throw in the towel like Al Gore did in 2000.
DOING THE RIGHT THING
During the long election campaign those same corporate interests had demonized Lopez Obrador with a big-money fear campaign, claiming that investment and jobs would dry up if he defeated Calderon, the pro-United States candidate.
With the vote as close as it was and the preliminary returns flip-flopping amid the post-election uncertainty, Lopez Obrador did what any self-respecting candidate would do, challenge the vote in all those polling stations where his supporters detected irregularities.
Since fraud turned out to be the norm instead of the exception, Lopez Obrador demanded a full recount of the ballots. “Vote-by-vote, polling station by polling station,” was the peaceful battle cry of the supporters of the former Mexico City mayor that set up camps on major avenues and squares in the capital for two months and now continue their struggle by way of a parallel government.
By not carrying out the full recount, which they could have done five times over in the two months following the election, the highest electoral authorities practically admitted that doing so might have changed the results, and that wasn’t in the cards.
There is no other sensible explanation as to why a full recount wasn’t carried out to dispel any doubts. If the PAN candidate had still remained on top after a full recount, nobody would be questioning his legitimacy.
Now, what’s at stake is the credibility of both the Mexican electoral system and a president elect.