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Fwd: FNS Special Report: Mexico's Cliffhanger

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  • Greg Cannon
    ... July 4, 2006 Political News Will the Courts Decide Mexico s Presidential Election? Lodged in a trailing but tight race with arch-rival Felipe Calderon,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2006
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      --- fnsnews@... wrote:

      > Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2006 12:10:36 -0600
      > From: fnsnews@...
      > Subject: FNS Special Report: Mexico�s Cliffhanger
      > To: fns_nmsu-l@...
      July 4, 2006

      Political News

      Will the Courts Decide Mexico's Presidential Election?


      Lodged in a trailing but tight race with arch-rival
      Felipe
      Calderon, Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel

      Lopez Obrador says he will ask the Federal Electoral
      Commission (IFE) for a careful, vote-by-vote count of
      the
      July 2 balloting when the formal tally commences on
      Wednesday, July 5. Mexico's legal election overseer
      has
      not yet officially named a winner, but nearly-complete

      preliminary results from last Sunday's election
      purport
      that Calderon holds a one percentage-point lead over
      Lopez
      Obrador-a difference of about 400,000 votes.

      "All the (exit) polls I knew of yesterday were in
      favor of
      us," said Lopez Obrador in an interview on Mexican
      television. While not openly labeling the
      election fraudulent, Lopez Obrador said an initial
      rapid
      count that gave Calderon a 7-point lead but then
      steadily
      diminished raises serious questions that need to be
      clarified.

      "If we lost the election, I will recognize it," Lopez
      Obrador said on national television. Responding to
      Lopez
      Obrador's contentions, Cesar Nava Vazquez, the
      spokesman
      for Calderon's conservative National Action Party
      (PAN),
      urged the former Mexico City mayor to throw in the
      towel
      and call it quits. "In a democracy, you win by one
      vote,
      not to mention more than 400,000 votes," Nava said.

      According to the IFE, 59 percent of Mexico's
      registered
      voters turned out to vote last Sunday, but Lopez
      Obrador
      spokesman Horacio Duarte contends the rate of
      participation was far less-54 percent. "We have two
      hypotheses: someone is adding votes or someone is
      missing
      them," said Duarte on CNN's Spanish language channel.
      IFE
      President Luis Carlos Ugalde later confirmed that 3
      million votes were not included in the preliminary
      totals
      because of questions about the ballots' veracity.

      Coming in the aftermath of Mexico's elimination from
      the
      World Soccer Cup, the presidential election was the
      second
      major event to jolt the nation in recent days.
      Mexicans
      were stunned early in the evening of July 2 when IFE
      President Luis Carlos Ugalde failed to announce a
      leading
      presidential vote-getter based on the rapid count.
      According to the Mexico's chief election official, a
      committee of 5 "scientists" from the national
      university
      determined that conditions did not exist to make a
      statement.

      "The IFE has done a very professional job," Ugalde
      countered, "and what's happened is that the voters
      have
      decided to vote the way they have and there is a tie."


      Headlined "Tie," an extra edition of Mexico City's El
      Universal daily hit the streets within hours. The July
      3
      edition of the Excelsior daily was simply
      headlined: "Who?" Comparisons to the 2000 Bush-Gore
      deadlock in Florida were quickly heard.

      Contrary to earlier appeals from the IFE that urged
      the
      candidates to not make premature statements, both
      Calderon
      and Lopez Obrador were proclaiming themselves the
      winners
      by the late in the evening of July 2. Exercising
      prudence,
      the Calderon campaign kept a leash on its supporters
      and
      an expected victory celebration at Mexico City's Angel
      of
      Independence Monument did not materialize. However,
      thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters sped through
      Mexico
      City's streets honking their horns and braving the
      cold
      drizzle that dampened the night to celebrate in the
      capital city's Zocalo.

      At first, news of the election toss-up unbalanced the
      financial world. The peso immediately dropped in
      value,
      but recovered on July 3 along with the Mexican stock
      market. Boosted by news of Calderon's continuing lead,

      Monday's stock market registered its second biggest
      gain
      of 2006.

      In contrast to the presidential race, clear winners
      emerged in the federal congressional election. The big

      loser was the former ruling Institutional Party of the

      Revolution (PRI), which fell to third place.
      Calderon's
      National Action Party (PAN) became the "first
      minority"
      force in the new congress, followed by the three
      parties
      making up Lopez Obrador's For the Good of All
      coalition.

      Two smaller parties, the New Alliance Party (PANAL)
      and
      the Alternative Social Democrat and Farmers Party led
      by
      feminist Patricia Mercado, apparently attracted enough

      votes to maintain their registrations and win
      representation in the congress. "We were the biggest
      surprise of the federal elections," said Roberto
      Campa,
      the PANAL's gleeful presidential candidate

      The tightness of the presidential race supports the
      notion
      that every count counts, but many votes that were
      cast in
      last Sunday's election will not be counted. Posted
      late on
      July 3, the preliminary results reported that more
      than
      800,000 ballots were annulled. Mexican election law
      permits ballots to be tossed out if a voter sloppily
      marks
      a space or commits another mistake that raises doubts
      about the intention of vote. The initial percentage of

      discarded ballots on July 2 was slightly more than two

      percent of the total votes cast, a figure similar to
      previous elections, according to the IFE.

      Another serious, recurring problem cropped up on July
      2:
      Many people who tried to vote simply could not. As in
      past
      elections, the IFE set up more than 800 special voting

      precincts for people who were away from home. Despite
      a
      growing population and an increased mobility in
      Mexico,
      Mexican law has limited each special precinct to 750
      ballots in order to guard against fraud. Press
      dispatches
      from geographic zones scattered throughout Mexico
      reported
      thousands of people were unable to vote at the special

      precincts because the ballots ran out, usually by
      early
      afternoon.

      In Mexico City, a long line made up of people from
      Oaxaca,
      Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Sonora, Durango, Veracruz, and
      other states snaked around a full city block in front
      of
      the Zocalo, where special precincts were installed.
      Interviewed by Frontera NorteSur, several people
      reported
      waiting several hours to cast their votes; others
      claimed
      they were being turned away.

      Mexico City resident Maria Refugio Diaz said that
      election
      officials suggested sher try the special precincts
      because
      her name did not appear on the voter list in her
      regular
      precinct, though she had obtained a voter
      identification
      card one year earlier. "My vote doesn't count,"
      Refugio
      complained.

      Saying he rose bright and early, Luis Gerardo Espinoza

      Escalante wasn't impressed with the gripes. "I
      wouldn't
      like these elections in Mexico to be seen abroad as
      turbulent," Espinosa told Frontera NorteSur. "I came
      early
      and cast my vote...the people who are lazy and don't
      wake
      up early can't vote because this is a special precinct
      and
      they will have the bad luck that the ballots run out."


      As Zapatista Sub-Comandante Marcos puffed away on his
      trademark pipe during an anti-election rally
      simultaneously underway in the Zocalo, tension and
      shouts
      erupted across the street in front of the special
      precints. "Defrauded!" protested a chorus of hopeful
      voters as speeches blasting the election and the
      police
      attack on residents of San Salvador Atenco last May
      drifted over the crowd from the sound system in the
      Zocalo.

      In the next act, the IFE is expected to declare a
      presidential election winner sometime later this week.
      If
      the declared victor is Calderon as expected, analysts
      like
      Daniel Tacher, a representative of the
      non-governmental
      organization Civic Alliance, anticipate that the Lopez

      Obrador camp will take matters one step further and
      legally challenge the election in court. In Mexico,
      the
      legal authority with the final say-so is the Federal
      Election Tribunal. According to Tacher, the tribunal
      would
      then have until early September to render a decision
      on
      who will be Mexico's next president.

      Additional sources: El Universal, July 2 and 3, 2006.
      Univision/Unicable, Televisa, July 2, 3 and 4, 2006.
      TV
      Azteca, July 2, 2006. Excelsior, July 3, 2006. La
      Jornada,
      July 3, 2006. Articles by Fabiola Martinez, Alonso
      Urrutia, Jesus Aranda, Elizabeth Velsaco C., Matile
      Perez,
      and editorial staff. CNN en Espa�ol, July 3, 2006.

      Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border
      news
      Center for Latin American and Border Studies
      New Mexico State University
      Las Cruces, New Mexico

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