Thursday, July 06, 2006

A flip of the recount

[Update below]

It took all night, but Felipe Calderón is back on top in Mexico's see-saw of a presidential race.
WaPo's lede today regarding the recount of Mexico's presidential election is a rather complete and accurate statement, both for what it conveys superficially but also for what it implies. I am not entirely sure whether this was purposeful or inadvertent, but I suspect the author, Manuel Roig-Franzia, probably has a good sense of what is going on during this recount process.

Just last night and with 75% of the recount complete, Reuters had reported that populist Obrador had an established lead of 2.2%. I will quote the pertinent graf just in case it happens to disappear.
Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, was ahead of pro-U.S. lawyer Calderon by about 2.2 percentage points in the recount of 75 percent of polling stations but it was still too early to declare a victor from Sunday's vote.
I was really rather stunned that the recount was doing this. Actually, I was rather surprised that the recount was happening at all, but apparently the GOP was unable to muster hordes of raging, paid acolytes, ship them to Mexico and have them unleash their Republican-fueled wrath upon that country's election workers to halt the recount. Furthermore, the recount was not interfered with by an intrusive Supreme Court. Nonetheless, with the recount having progressed that far, I was hopeful for Mexico, but also partially dreading having to retract all my previous predictions. Not anymore.

Most recently, the Guardian is reporting that, with 99.2% of the recount complete, Calderón has magically slipped into the narrowest of leads, .35%, about 142,000 votes. Note here how this is being explained, giving an impression of legitimacy:
The remaining votes to be counted are mostly from National Action Party, or PAN, strongholds in northern Mexico.
The Guardian is a little more circumspect of this claim and notes that it is the ruling party that claims this odd feature of the recount, that the remaining uncounted votes come from areas that support Calderón:
Ruling party officials said Lopez Obrador had the lead earlier only because more votes had been counted in areas where he was strongest.
Just why that should have happened is unexplained. I suspect that it has much to do with developing the perception that a narrow lead by Obrador and the subsequent flip of the margin in favour of Calderón has at least the appearance of a reasonable explanation.

Echoing yet another familiar refrain from Ohio 2004, when Republicans declared how "clean" the US elections were that year -- David Drieir (R-Ca) had said, "there is no evidence whatsoever, no evidence whatsoever” for electoral fraud despite mounds of evidence to the contrary -- Calderón himself declaimed Mexico's election to have been
the most democratic and cleanest in the history of Mexico.
Now, given Mexico's election history, that's not really saying much, but it sure sounds good. Curiously, before and while Calderón said this, reports emerged indicating something else entirely:
more than 18,000 polling places had more votes cast than there were ballots and nearly 800 had more votes than there were registered voters.
While that might be Calderón's idea of the cleanest election in the history of Mexico -- and it still might actually be -- this also sounds achingly similar to tales here in 2004, where numerous Diebold machines in various parts of the country had "counted" many more votes than there were voters. Mexico, of course, didn't have Diebold machines; the ruling establishment had to do things "the old fashioned way."

So the prediction stands. The recount has delivered the desired result and while Obrador might demand a ballot-by-ballot recount, Mexican law is very specific as to when that can occur. And that means it won't happen in this election.

In both the US and now Mexico, we've seen enough of these last minute election "miracles" to know what is really going on. And it is still coming in light of the fact that voters attending these exercises in democracy simulacra know what is happening as well, especially when they are supporters of the "reform" party. Suggestions have been made that, in order to win an election now, massive voter turn-out will have to occur in order to fully expose the equally massive cheating that would have to take place in order to counter true voter will. That is probably true although entirely unrealistic. In the most heavily contested election in American history, a mere 60% of US citizens turned out. Usually, it is 50% or less. That is not a statistic that speaks well of the American public's involvement in its democratic functions. And that is a situation those in power are more than happy to exploit.

Update: Narco News has an in-depth report on some of the tales of missing ballots that, despite its awful similitude, offers further instruction about the powers that be and their distaste for elections:
an unknown number of ballot boxes have “disappeared” in the past two days. The ballots from three precincts in the city of Nezahuacoyotl – a López Obrador stronghold – were discovered yesterday in the municipal garbage dump. The results from two of those precincts have been missing, since Sunday, from IFE’s vote tallies.
This, while the facade of electoral cleanliness is further polished by mainstream media.


Anonymous robb said...

I used to get pretty pissed off at those apathetic, "What's the point in voting?" people. Now, I don't know if I blame them.
I'm still pissed at Nader though...

3:27 PM  
Blogger Musclemouth said...

I stayed up all night watching the majority flip back and forth. Your account reflect waht I saw, and I like the highlights you included. I would add that, in the wee hours of the morning, when most people were literally asleep, the flipping was the most frequent. It played out like a game of three-card monte. Looked like a lot of smoke and mirrors to me. The percentage points' difference were often less than o.3%. And meanwhile, the media kept repeating that the 32,000 Mexican voters living in the U.S. wouldn't make that much of a difference in the outcome. It's almost as if the media were trying to tell us not to look at the U.S. vote. Almost as if there was something fishy going on that we weren't supposed to know about. I'll wager those votes were not counted. I don't know about you, but maybe it would be a good idea if the secret ballot was abolished. It's the only way to attain transparency. On the other hand, this could leave the door open to voter intimidation.

6:21 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...


WE saw the same expat vote scrubbing in 2004. The GOP engaged a program to keep wily, worldly Americans -- those very likely not to support Bush's transgressions against the world -- from voting. Hardly any expat votes counted here. Probably the same was true for Mexico.

I don't know what the answer is to this morass. There has been a strong effort to dumb-down the term "transparency" to the point that it just doesn't mean anything anymore. We in the US like to believe we have transparency -- you hear Bush spouting about it all the time -- while being governed by perhaps the most secretive administration this country has ever seen.

7:34 PM  

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