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So it begins… or, it ain’t over til it’s over

2 July 2012

Based on the “conteo rápido” — which was contracted out by IFE to Mitofsky, FeCal announced that Enrique Peña Nieto is the president-elect… which at this point he is.

While one my late night dog walk, we stopped by the local PRI headquarters (a block and a half from my house), where there’s a rather sedate party going o.  Whether the rather staid nature of the affair was due to having to honor the dry law even in Mazatlán on election day itself, or because the PRIistas themselves are not quite sure they have captured Los Pinos (or really care all that much) is something I wasn’t able to ascertain.

I was looking at the IFE PREP figures, both the charts (where AMLO was closing a gap down to under 3.35 percent, when it started to widen slowly) and not at the actual numbers, other than the percentage of precincts counted.  However, based on what happened in 2006 (when the results were much, much closer), I expected there would be mathematicians weighing in on what they saw as wrong with the official figures by later this week.  I was off by several days.

Jorge López Gallardo, a University of Texas Physics Professor notes that over a period of three hours, the total Quadri + “voto nulo” (invalid ballots) + “NoReg” (write in votes) equaled 4.7 percent.  

I’m not a statistician (my math skills are slightly below my spelling ability) but on the face of it, that shouldn’t be possible.   It might be possible, but in addition to the serious questions about vote buying, media manipulation, election violence (quite a bit, actually, including at least one murder in Guanajuato State), there was a headline in Jornada  claiming 71 percent of Mexican think electoral fraud was a very real possibility.  Of course, given the low opinion (especially on the left) of opinion polls, whether it actually is 71 percent is another question… but we can say that a lot of Mexicans assume there was fraud, or probably was fraud involved in the election.

After the last Presidential election (in which allegations of fraud also were raised, though on a much less well-documented level), enough people took to the streets to seriously annoy the tiny portion of Mexicans that actually need to use certain major streets in Mexico City.  HOWEVER, that tiny portion of workers happens to include a lot of the opinion makers … and most of the employees of the various foreign news agencies.  The street occupations were presented by the media as some serious threat to the nation, and to the democratic process.

It was a challenge to the process — as it existed then — but I’d argue street actions are democracy in action.  Non-violent and rather celebratory (complete with basketball games in the middle of Avenuda de la Reforma), it channeled dissatisfaction with the election into what were useful avenues… the “alternative Presidency” functioned quite well as a resource for developing political and social agendas and unifying the opposition to the incoming administration’s more radical economic and social agendas.  On the downside, the incoming administration — with its legitimacy in doubt — doubled down on attacking peripheral social movements (like the one in Oaxaca), more or less forcing the Fox Administration to respond to protests there with military and paramilitary forces (something noted at the time, but ignored by most north of the border commentators).  “Plan Merida” may have not followed for some time, but the seeds were certainly there from the election… or selection of the preferred candidate of the Bush Administtation.

I’ve argued before that Peña Nieto is the preferred candidate of the Obama Administration.  While the policies that affect the U.S. (pursuing the so-called “drug war” while evading any serious work by the U.S. in clamping down on gun-running and money laundering in their own country, and  the continued penetration of U.S. corporate agriculture into Mexico) are likely to be continued (with some cosmetic changes) by the incoming Peña Neito administration, the Calderón Administration will, like the Fox Administration, be pressured into taking measures more in line with the incoming president’s style.  Given the authoritarian streak in the PRI, and Peña Neito’s own record in using force to crush dissent, it could get very ugly.

A seminal article by Roger Bartra in Saturday’s El País argues that the return of the “authoritarian right” to power (as opposed to the what he considers the “democratic right” of PAN) is not so bad,  that conditions and limits on authoritarian power having been established.  Certainly, Calderón and his backers in Washington weren’t able to give into their lower, worse angels although they did have parts of Mexico marching through Hell for the last couple of years.

Creating the limits was part of what all that street noise and “alternative presidential” theatrics was all about.  At times it seemed an “authoritarian left” was coming out of the woodwork, but if the authoritarians on the right are part of a legitimate political process, then so are those on the left.  Possibly a dangerous situation, as some claimed, but it worked in 2006.

HOWEVER… this is not 2006.  For one thing, communications are better, and the “alternative” political actions don’t necessarily have to be out in the public eye, or on the street.  The internet wasn’t nearly as widely available in 2006, nor was there anything like “youtube” or “facebook” or “twitter” in widespread circulation.  Nor, in 2006, was there an organized, well-educated young dissident movement.  There were a good number, perhaps a third to a half, of the “yosoy#132” people on the streets who were not Lopez Obradór supporters.

In 2006, Lopez Obradór was the focus of the protests, and Lopez Obradór was an obsession for those that sought to crush the protests.  I’m not sure he matters all that much after tonight.  He was seen as the best alternative among the four candidates by a third of the voters, which is about what he received in 2006.  A more than impressive performance, and perhaps he really did win the election.  At any rate, more than 60 percent of the voters rejected Peña Nieto (and perhaps more voted for him — or didn’t vote for him, but had votes cast in their name — under some sort of duress).    As the picture becomes clearer of how the votes were cast, of the younger, better educated and more politically aware voters who backed Lopez Obradór, and — if not on the economic and social “left” at least open to political change.

In 2006, firing a warning shot in Oaxaca was a no-brainer.  Crushing poor Oaxaca school-teachers and indigenous protests is easy… crushing middle-class college students and the business executives like Carlos Slim and the intellectuals who despise Peña Neito… and the PANistas who may very well reject the return of the old party… is going to be much, much harder.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Beco permalink
    2 July 2012 10:46 am

    Buenos dias Lic. Grabman! I’ve been reading your wonderful website almost as far back as the 2006 election. I haven’t felt as bad as I did last night since I drank three too many Long Island Iced Teas. EPN might very well have “legitimately” won based on the number of votes cast, but anyone who has paid attention to the electoral campaign could point out all the countless times the IFE ignored what EPN and his PRI minions were caught doing, be it exceeding the campaign spending limit by three times (he exceeded for the 1st time in April), the very suspicious accusations raised by the California media owner Aquino’s lawsuit, the blatant and obvious use of public monies as gifts in the campaign (here in Nogales the PRI even aired an ad telling people they would receive a discount in their light bill if they attended their campaign events). Not only has the IFE been pusillanimous and negligent, it has been biased and has failed the provide a truly equal and fair playing field.

    2012 is just as much a fraud if not more than 2006, but like last time it’s hard to see the general public rising up and redressing what in every sense of the phrase is a literal media coup. Some (like Mexico’s national troll Jorge Castaneda) have suggested the return of the PRI might not be such a bad thing (and perhaps maybe it won’t be so bad after all), but the PRI’s enhanced power might possibly already be setting up the stage for a sort of rebirth of the dedazo and its ratification by the apparently easily-manipulated masses in 2018 (and beyond). Mexico has to change, I hope that the people do not allow this without a fight – at very least, EPN’s “coronation” didn’t take place with the double digit figures the “beltway” or “periferico” types were predicting.

  2. 2 July 2012 12:23 pm

    My guess is this election was an extension of the coups that Washington has been promoting/tolerating. Really since the coups against Aristide in the 1990s, Washington has returned to aggressive activism in determining who may or may not govern in the Western hemisphere. And it has been turning toward more subtle means, which were on display in Paraguay.

    Did this election need to be stolen? If not, it’s hard to see why PRI was so energetic in vote buying, intimidation, and outright fraud. If it really had the lead that it claimed to, its best course would have been to order a squeaky clean election to demonstrate that it had learned its lesson in the political wilderness.

    In any case, as Beco suggests above, it might have been a “free” election in the sense that the president-presumptive represents the choice of the electors, but it was not a meaningful election, when the electors were poorly informed on the issues by a media that more resembles a soap opera than a news operation.

    God help Mexico, because it is in the hands of Sarah Palin.

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