Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A rigged election, or a sore loser?

Once again, the outcome of a presidential election in Mexico has generated controversy:
More than a week after Mexico's presidential election, the candidate who authorities describe as the runner-up said a partial recount was not enough to erase his doubts about the vote.
"We cannot accept these results," Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters Monday, vowing to file a formal complaint before a tribunal on Thursday, the legal deadline for challenging the election results.
Lopez Obrador asserted that presumptive president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto and his party bought millions of votes in the election -- an accusation party officials have denied.
Given the history of Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held its iron grip on power in Mexico for 71 years due to methods such as rampant voter fraud, one really can't argue with Lopez Obrador's concerns. While it would be nice to believe that the country's political process has moved past such chicanery in the dozen years that the PRI was turned out of power, the fact is that old habits tend to die hard in the realm of Latin American politics.

However, this is also the second time in a row that Lopez Obrador has come in second place in Mexico's presidential election. And it's the second time in a row that he's claimed that the election was rigged and that he was the rightful winner.
Lopez Obrador has criticized the election and refused to concede repeatedly over the past week, echoing comments he made in 2006 when election authorities said the leftist candidate narrowly lost the presidential vote to Felipe Calderon.
After that election, the former Mexico City mayor claimed election fraud and never conceded, referring to himself as "the legitimate president of Mexico." Lopez Obrador's supporters protested nationwide. In Mexico City, they organized sit-ins and blockades.
If any of this sounds familiar to long-time readers of my blog, it's because I wrote about this six years ago. Lopez Obrador, it would appear, is not a man who accepts defeat gracefully.
Officials have called this year's election the most transparent in Mexico's history. It was the first election in which scanned copies of district-by-district election returns were posted on the Internet.
But accusations have arisen of electoral manipulation by the PRI.

Opponents of the PRI said they have video and photo evidence of the party buying votes through thousands of cards that could be redeemed for products at a chain of supermarkets.
The PRI's spokesperson, naturally, has decried these claims as "a farce" and says the videos and photographs purporting to show vote-buying have been staged or faked by political opponents.

So was the election really rigged, is Lopez Obrador just a sore loser, or is it a little bit of both? And is this controversy a distraction that Mexico, as it grapples with bloody and debilitating drug-related violence, really needs right now?

Even after the partial recount, the election results remain unofficial. Mexico's electoral tribunal has until early September to investigate Lopez Obrador's complaints and officially ratify the outcome.

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