Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mexico election: judges say "NO" to recount

Mexico's election commission judges, the TEPJF, have ruled, following a debate which was broadcast publicly, that there will be no full recount of the July presidential election ballots. The debate and decision, which were broadcast over big screen TV to the multitudes camped out in downtown Mexico City, brought roars of disapproval from the huge crowd.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who had taken to the streets to demand the recount while insisting that he would not recognize the recount if it went against him (huh?), must now decide whether to call for a nationwide rebellion. In spite of the opinion of a plethora of outside observers, from the European Union to the United Nations to the USA, that the election was fair and the decision justified, AMLO has insisted that he was defrauded and should be the president elect.

The 7 judges who comprise the TEPJF tribunal were bound by Mexico's strict election laws. They could only have ordered a full recount in the event that they were shown clear and overwhelming evidence that a massive nationwide vote fraud had been orchestrated by the other two political parties involved. AMLO's party, the PRD, attempted to show that everyone, from President Fox to a potato chip manufacturer's hand washing commercial to an orange juice processor's corporate color scheme (chosen in 1968) down to its own PRD poll watchers had conspired to steal the election. The judges were having none of it.

By Mexican law, considered among the strictest and fairest on earth, the judges can also order recounts on a poll-by-poll, ballot box-by-ballot box basis. If complaints filed against the election, and there were more than 350 such complaints filed, convinced the judges that a recount was necessary, they could so order. And they have so ordered. Some 3000 of the 131,000 ballot boxes have been ordered unsealed in response to various complaints and their contents recounted. During those recounts, AMLO actually lost some 2000 votes to Felipe Calderon, now almost certain to be declared the winner.

If one had been in downtown Mexico City, one would not know the reasoning of the judges since the roars of disapproval drowned out much of the judges' debate and statements.

We'll see what AMLO decides to do. He has pretty well lost this fight, which was quixotic to begin with, but he has shown in the past that losing a legal fight will not stop him. In 1994, in his native state of Tobasco, AMLO led a revolt against the federally owned electric company fueled by accusations of fraud in the governor's election, which he also lost. He encouraged his followers to stop paying their bills and some 150,000 did so. AMLO organized crews of technicians to reconnect anyone's power which had been cut and in other cases armed mobs chased off electric company representatives who had arrived to cut someone's power.

The electric company finally gave up. Down through the years another 100,000 or so people have joined the movement so that, today, some 250,000 residents of Tabasco receive free electricity which the remaining population has to pay for. AMLO and his followers also stopped paying their property taxes for a time, but only the non-payment for electricity continues today, 12 years later.

At the conclusion of their work today, the federal election commission judges will probably spend the night in their offices because AMLO's supporters have blockaded the commission building. AMLO has announced that he will speak to his supporters and announce his next move at 7:00 tonight.

The PRD city government of Mexico City has refused to take any action to keep the streets clear or maintain order among the 100,000 or so AMLO supporters who have camped out there. The city officials refuse to publicly recognise that the tent city is causing any problems, while on the other hand they say that the protest is against the federal government and therefore is not the city's responsibility.

UPDATE I: The federal election judges have ordered 11,839 ballot boxes be opened and their contents recounted due to various errors or other causes. Together with the 3000 or so already recounted, the ballot boxes recounted will be about 10% of the total nationwide. That's still a pretty hefty recount, IMHO.

UPDATE II: AMLO's supporters who were blockading the federal election commission building have been withdrawn.

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