Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Regarding COHA’s July 11 Press Release “Mexican Election Still Far from Over, as the Plot Somewhat Thickens”

  • More than a week after Mexico’s presidential election, there is still no clear winner
  • Although ruling PAN party candidate Felipe Calderón ostensibly won by the slimmest of margins in last week’s re-tabulation of votes, a long and what could prove to be a turbulent legal process lies ahead before he can actually be certified as president-elect
  • Left-leaning PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has rightly protested the results of the election, citing mounting evidence of fraud and malfeasance. He is seeking victory not by means of violence and hysteria, but by a vote-by-vote recount
  • While the electoral authorities have repeatedly preached about their body’s own accomplishments, in fact, IFE’s credibility is flagging. Given the process in which it evolved, candidate López Obrador has every right and reason to challenge IFE’s role and the manner in which the ruling party conducted itself. The PRD’s search for validation of the election is merited

Full article...

~Dear Sirs:

Regarding Michael Lettieri’s July 11 article on Mexican Election Still Far from Over …, I would like to note that your credibility is being compromised by two assertions made by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that are repeated in your article that turn out to be completely untrue.

1) The video AMLO showed on the ballot box stuffing turned out to be a voting place president returning to the proper voting box about 10 ballots that were mistakenly put in the wrong ballot box. This was done in front of all the party representatives and the polling station workers and everyone involved agreed it was done completely legally and with no bias toward any candidate.

2) The so-called 3 million missing votes were never missing at all because all the political parties had agreed that votes with incomplete or inconsistent information would be left out of the rapid tally known as the PREP. These votes were placed in a separate area and the political parties were able to consult this area and see the results of these `inconsistent’ votes, which were to be included at all times in the final district tally. It’s still not clear why AMLO referred to them as missing votes when his party knew where they were and even consulted them.

It’s perfectly fine to take sides. I certainly enjoy reading from a variety of points of view. However, for the sake of your institution’s credibility, please make sure you don’t repeat assertions that have been thoroughly proven to be incorrect.


Thomas Black~

~COHA Responds:

Regarding the first point, at the time of the article’s writing and publication, it was still uncertain as to whether what was witnessed in the video was fraud or whether it was, as the IFE claimed, a misinterpreted relocation of ballots. Since then, it has become apparent that in this particular incident, as Mr. Black notes, no malfeasance was present. However, the video is not the only evidence López Obrador has offered of possible wrongdoing, and numerous organizations have noted irregularities in the electoral process. These groups include Global Exchange – which mounted a larger, broader, and more comprehensive monitoring effort than many – and Mexico’s own Alianza Cívica, perhaps the most important and highly regarded pro-democracy organization in the country. While this particular case was eventually disproved, its symbolic weight was substantial.

Regarding the second point, COHA never referred to the votes as missing, but simply noted that they had been left out of initial PREP results. This decision was, regardless of its legal and electoral basis, confusing for many, and compounded the IFE’s perceived mismanagement of the election.

~(EXCERPTED) Here I go again after struggling with Michael Lettieri’s most recent “analysis” of the Mexican presidential election: Mexican Election Still Far from Over, as the Plot Somewhat Thickens. I am in full agreement with most of Lettieri’s closing remarks.

And I quote:
“The PRD’s decision to protest the official results of the July 2 election through legally defined channels is nothing less than a test of the strength of Mexican democracy. It is no easy task that now confronts the TEPJF, as it must sort through hard evidence and heated rhetoric to make a decision which it will undoubtedly be forced to justify to either the PAN or the PRD, according to the circumstances. Dealing with the uncertainty that will undoubtedly dominate Mexico until that ruling is announced is a formidable task and one which has been complicated by the IFE’s incessant self-promotion. In the weeks to come, all actors, including the media, must behave in a responsible manner. At this point, the only certainty about the Mexican presidential election of 2006 is that it is far from over.”

But, I must take exception in the above paragraph to Lettieri’s reference to “the IFE’s incessant self-promotion” statement, as it seems more the product of his fabrications not supported by sound and solid evidence. Unfortunately, most of his presentation seems to parrot the PRD’s contention of fraud without giving serious consideration to the well structured electoral process put together by the IFE during the past 12 years. Perhaps Lettieri will do well to follow his own advice to the media to “behave in a responsible manner.” I presume he does not claim to be above those mundane limitations.


Sergio Ferragut~

~COHA Responds:

The IFE has, without a doubt, been its own biggest supporter. Anyone who has listened to the IFE discuss its own stature or importance would be hard pressed to disagree.
This is not to say that COHA hasn’t discussed some of the body’s more favorable aspects and its significance in historical perspective. In a February 15, 2006 report (Courting the Vote: Electoral Courts and Councils Take on the Challenge of Guaranteeing a Free and Fair Vote Throughout Latin America), COHA wrote that the IFE carried a “difficult historical burden,” yet noted that “its legitimacy is now unchallenged.” A June 6, 2006 release (Flirting with Danger: Mexican Presidential Campaign Grows Tense) observed that the IFE was “clearly capable of administering the ballot.”

This respect for the body’s nuts and bolts competency remains. As an observer, I, and my delegation, commented on the remarkable organization of the electoral processes, which the IFE administered. Ballots, boxes, and voting booths were all top notch. The system was close to, if not completely, airtight. That is not to say that the election was entirely inoculated against fraud. Bad intentions can pervert good systems, and it is likely – especially given Mexico’s history – that this occurred in some cases.

More importantly than the minutiae of fraud, however, was COHA’s assertion, which has been echoed by others, that the IFE failed to generate confidence and project an image of independent rectitude in the days after the vote. In the previously mentioned February report, we noted that “questions still remain over [the IFE’s] ability to serve as an effective mediator in Mexico’s brawling political arena” and that “the uncertain enforcement of its own, sometimes cripplingly vague, guidelines, has only hastened the deterioration of the IFE’s effectiveness as a regulatory institution.” It appears, in the aftermath of July 2, that such problems have come to a head.

It is the IFE’s loss of prestige, rather than any minor fraud allegation, which is troubling – more so because it is not entirely unfounded. PAN and PRI legislators effectively blocked PRD nominees to the IFE’s general council, and since then political scientists have noted that there are clearly defined voting patterns within the body, with some members breaking towards the PRI and others towards the PAN. If the body is indeed split between partisan members, the lack of PRD representation – given that the party’s showing in the congressional elections puts it on par with both the PRI and PAN – is troubling. Moreover, if much of the country perceives a partiality to both the PAN and PRI in the IFE’s actions, election results will always be distrusted. ~

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