Missing Ballots, Court Challenges and Hints of Street Protests

While Americans will spend today celebrating democracy with hot dogs, ice cream and fireworks, Mexicans are still dealing with the occasional messes that popular elections tend to produce.

Ceci Connolly -- Mexico's 2006 Election

Preliminary counts from Sunday's national election give a 1 percentage point lead to Felipe Calderón, the conservative who ran on promises to continue the work of President Vicente Fox. But left-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador asserts that when every ballot is counted -- including some 3 million that are "missing" -- he will be the rightful winner.

First, the news -- as best as we can determine it in this unpredictable environment.

The head of Mexico's electoral institute, Luis Carlos Ugalde, announced that the "missing ballots" were tossed out because of errors. That sounds like a lot of errors to Campaign Conexión and could well form the basis of a legal challenge by López Obrador. (More on that in just a moment.)

The other "news," if you can call it that, is that Roberto Madrazo seems to recognize what everyone else has been saying for months: He's done, and his party is severely injured.

Madrazo, after a meeting with governors from his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), acknowledged the election process was "not in our favor." (Cut the man some slack; it's hard to say "I lost.") Describing the process as "legal, legitimate, transparent" and leaving no doubt, Madrazo said he did not intend to fight in the courts.

By acknowledging the legitimacy of the results, Madrazo appears to be lending a hand to Calderón and undermining talk by the López Obrador camp that the vote count is suspect. That's just a theory, but keep an eye out for that line of argument.

One cannot underestimate the poor showing by Madrazo and the PRI. Though polls had suggested for months that he would not win, his weak performance nationwide and the strong showing by López Obrador's Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) effectively reshaped the political landscape here, perhaps for decades.

(Image courtesy The Herald)

(Here's a map showing just that from the Miami Herald's Mexico edition.)

In an excellent analysis, Kelly Arthur Garrett describes the new, very sharp division in Mexico: "The electorate gave more or less the same number of votes to a confirmed believer in unfettered free-market capitalism as it gave to a center-left advocate of an active government role in eradicating poverty. That makes for a classic left-right split unknown in Mexico since the Revolution, or perhaps since the civil wars of the 19th century.

"The most revealing statistic of the new Mexican political paradigm is how the states swung in the presidential race. Of the 32 entities (31 states and Mexico City), exactly 16 went for López Obrador and exactly 16 for Felipe Calderón of the rightwing National Action Party. None gave the PRI´s Roberto Madrazo a majority."

How Crazy Will It Get?

The streets of Mexico have remained relatively calm since Sunday night's wild developments. But the spin from both sides about López Obrador is dizzying. On the one hand, López Obrador and his own aides, with chests puffed out, are raising the specter of street protests and prolonged court cases.

In a breathless "urgent, exclusive" bulletin late Tuesday morning, Reuters said AMLO "will call street protests if necessary to challenge an election he says was full of irregularities, senior aides said Tuesday."

López Obrador, a charismatic scrappy pol, has been talking out of both sides of his mouth, promising to respect the count -- if it's a good one. "It's very healthy for everyone if we can be satisfied by a review of the ballots," he said in one interview. Then in another: "If we lost the election, I will recognize it. But if I won, even by one vote, I am going to defend that triumph."

At the same time, Calderón's team seems just as eager to stoke fears that chaos -- perhaps even violence -- will reign if the election is not resolved quickly. Calderón "called on his opponent to admit defeat and 'begin a time of reconciliation and unity among Mexicans," the New York Times reported. "'I can assure all Mexicans that I won the elections, and I have the papers in hand,' he said, brandishing the preliminary results."

There's certainly a good bit of history to suggest López Obrador will aggressively fight the results, and Mexico's legal bodies will look upon his challenge favorably.

"López Obrador's rejection of the preliminary tally fueled worries that he might organize massive protests, as he did in 1988 and 1994, to protest his defeat in gubernatorial elections," writes Chris Hawley in the Arizona Republic. "The former Mexico City mayor also summoned tens of thousands of demonstrators during a short-lived effort to impeach him last year."

The Los Angeles Times recounts two controversial electoral incidents (some say stolen) seared in the memory of many PRD followers: "In the first, party founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas lost the 1988 presidential election and refrained from rallying supporters into the streets. But popular outrage over the vote, widely perceived as rigged, helped spur a peaceful movement that eventually toppled the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in 2000, after decades of autocratic rule," according to Richard Boudreaux.

"In the second, the PRI cheated López Obrador in the 1994 Tabasco governor's race. But his futile protest shut down the state's oil wells and led to violent clashes with police, in which the candidate was clubbed on the head and photographed with a bloody shirt."

The Miami Herald, citing an interview with PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez, provides a timetable and PRD rationale for a challenge: "The final call rests with the Federal Electoral Institute. A recount begins Wednesday and could drag on for several days. Any challenges have to be turned in by Sunday, officials said. In the event that irregularities are found, the entire election results could be appealed to an election tribunal that doesn't have to rule before Sept. 2."

Putting It All in Context

Houston Chronicle Mexico City bureau chief Dudley Althaus writes there is a possibility -- albeit very small -- that the electoral commission would annul Sunday's results and call for a new vote.

But much more interesting in his dispatch is the historical perspective the veteran correspondent details: "At 52, López Obrador has at least one, and likely more chances at Mexico's presidency. His political movement did well in Sunday's election -- even if he eventually loses -- and could pick up further support in the coming years if the PRI erodes as many analysts expect it to."

All this makes the editorial writers at the Financial Times very worried: "A contested result would be the worst possible conclusion to what has been a rancorous and divisive period of campaigning. It provides nascent democratic institutions with a tough test. In any democracy this would be undesirable. But in a country as socially unequal and politically polarised as Mexico it could be destabilising."

Campaign Conexión isn't that worried -- yet. For now, it's back to the barbecue grill. Happy Fourth of July!

-- Ceci Connolly

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  July 4, 2006; 1:12 PM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
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Wow. Three million votes were tossed out!? If AMLO's supporters are worried they vote may have been rigged, I don't blame them.

I also heard that there were two different uncertified counts. The first comes from the vote tallies of each voting precinct (apparently each polling station is required by law to post their final results on the door at the when the polls close), which when added up show AMLO winning by more than half a million votes. The second, regional results, which is what the U.S. press has been focusing on, which show Calderon up by 400,000 votes.

Since these to tallies don't match, it seems like there is a substantial case for AMLO's camp to make in court. Does anyone have more details on the descrepency?

Posted by: Yakima | July 4, 2006 01:55 PM

First, 3 million votes were not tossed out. They were not counted on the PREP (program for preliminary results) because of inconsistencies or errors sending the information, but they will be count. The objective of the PREP is to provide a fast result based on early computations of the results posted. Generally, these results are accurate if difference between winner and looser is broad. But in this case, the authority declined to give a result until the count of each ballot is made. The IFE has not given a winner. The inconsistencies are normal and that's why we have to wait the final count. The supposed manipulation alleged by the PRD are nothing but rumors, and we are worried that they are "paving" the road to violence to challenge the elections. Calderon should not proclaimed himself a winner, either. Most people are confident that the results well be fair and that the election was clean. Except for the typical leftist "activist" for whom everyone is wrong but themselves.

Posted by: EduardoFlores | July 4, 2006 02:44 PM

Yakima: Contrary to what some PAN supporters want, the PREP results are not official; PREP consists of a useful preliminary results database to keep the public continuosly informed. There are not two tallies. A copy of the written, official tally of each voting station is farmed to the local office of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) to be captured into the PREP. There may be errors in capturing the information. Besides, PREP contains data on null votes. To everybody's surprise, Mr. Ugalde came up with some database of "irregular" votes that were not shown in PREP "to avoid confusion" (the three million that you are talking about).

For all this, with the leading candidates voting percentages so close to each other, the official declaration of a President Elect has to wait until the tallies of each voting station are verified and numbers are added up, in the presence of representatives of all parties. On ocassion, individual votes in a package from a suspect voting station can be recounted. In case of disagreement among party representatives, any party can challenge the results in electoral court. This is all written in the law. The Mexican electoral process is far from over...

Posted by: pasilla | July 4, 2006 02:50 PM

Thanks for the clairfications above. So if I'm reading right, those 3 million votes have yet to be tabulated. Depending on what region they come from, they could be highly skewed toward one candidate or the other,right? So that means that either Caleron could widen his lead or AMLO could overtake him.

Posted by: Yakima | July 4, 2006 03:00 PM

"Contrary to what some PAN supporters want, the PREP results are not official"
Boy, pasilla, you can sound very reasonable when the facts are against you... Even latte liberals such as Guadalupe Loaeza have come to terms with the general trends of the PREP. Please give concrete examples rather than the vague and generic "some PAN supporters". For example, it is a FACT that AMLO has already claimed victory by 500,000 votes, and that the PREP is fraudalent. Early indications are that those of us who voted for Calderon as the lesser evil were right in our gut feelings towards AMLO.
And once again, the North saved the day, as in the Revolution.

Posted by: Gabriel | July 4, 2006 03:09 PM

I have to disagree with you here. The 3 million votes with "inconsistencies" were not thrown out.

08:26 Luis Carlos Ugalde, consejero presidente del Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), dijo que los tres millones de votos que dice Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidato de la coalición Por el Bien de Todos, que se les perdieron, son actas que llegaron al instituto con inconsistencias como errores en llenado, por lo que se acordó con partidos políticos que éstas se tenían que poner aparte.

They were set aside and will have to be reviewed by the IFE to see if they qualify as valid ballots.
Apart from any rumors of 'alleged manipulation' the addition of even a small percentage of these 3 million votes could in fact change the current vote totals. Any political party which would not participate in this legal revision would be foolish. The PRD is only doing what the PAN has said all along they would do--defend the vote.

Posted by: Keith Dannemiller | July 4, 2006 03:12 PM

Gabriel I don't think the facts are "against" anyone at this point. There are 3 million uncounted votes remaining. And depending on where they come from, it could very well be that AMLO comes out on top with a 500,000 vote margin. We just have to wait and see.

Posted by: Yakima | July 4, 2006 03:29 PM

Calderon was wrong to claim victory, but he did so only after AMLO went out and announced, with great irony, that he respected the electoral institutions but he expected them to name him victor. Calderon had no choice but to speak less he let AMLO mold public opinion in his favor. AMLO may not be a foul-mouthed demagogue like Hugo Chavez, but he certainly has some of the same tendencies.

Posted by: JoMama | July 4, 2006 04:39 PM

Right on, JoMama! Calderon was just reacting to AMLO's claim that he was to be declared winner because of a 500,000 vote margin in his favor (he did not elaborate, as usual, where he got this number from). The vote summaries for the 3,000,000 votes are already registered in the system, but need to verified by all parties. However, it is very unlikely that they will reverse a trend that was observed beginning with the first 7,000 booths, especially since the states where AMLO has a bigger voter base had been already acknowledged as having the expected vote count. Going through the remaining votes will surely widen the victory margin for Calderon. AMLO, being a former PRI boss, is very aware of this fact. The overall perception in Mexico is that AMLO has lost the election, but IFE is trying to find the right moment to break him the news.

To Pasilla... Had AMLO been declared ahead using PREP results, he would be demanding that there should be no additional tallying.

Saludos desde la hermosa Sonora, México!!!

Posted by: MexicanInMexico | July 4, 2006 06:02 PM

Big surprise, Mexican in Mexico, that AMLO and Calderon are behaving like... politicians.

It's funny, Gabriel that YOU are asking for hard examples of PAN sympathizers (or at least that I understood)... Besides, who "saved" what Revolution? Calles, who gave Mexico PRI, shinning example of Mexican democracy? Or Obregon, with his attempt to be re-elected, cut short by a forerunner of a PAN militant? As a matter of fact, what's all this North vs. South nonsense about?

I'm so glad of my lack of "regional complexes." I'm born in Mexico City; my family comes in part from Tamaulipas and Michoacan. I have relatives living in Monterrey and Baja California Sur and am married to a woman from Aguascalientes. I'm just Mexican, and proud to be...

Posted by: pasilla | July 4, 2006 08:34 PM

The IFE explanation about the three million votes seems reasonable. Let's give them a chance to do their count and then let's see what evidence AMLO and his friends have to back their claim of "manipulation." If they are right, then they should pursue it, but if they do not have evidence and are only playing another political game, they could really damage Mexico in the process.

Posted by: Goyo | July 4, 2006 08:58 PM

"Going through the remaining votes will surely widen the victory margin for Calderon."
The IFE's tabulation of the 2.5 million votes with inconsistencies has dropped the difference between the two front-runners to 0.64%. Also by the IFE's calculation, there are 2,017 voting stations still to tally which translates to about 1.5 million ballots.
At this point in time, anyone would be foolish to call a winner in this race.

Posted by: Keith Dannemiller | July 4, 2006 09:35 PM

Let's keep in mind that the IFE's acknowledgement of the 2.5 million votes that were not initially tallied came about 16 hrs. after the PRD first pointed to the discrepancy between the PREP and the estimated total vote count.

Furthermore, by not disclosing early the existence of this 2.5m unaccounted votes, the IFE allowed the media to draft their election coverage stories on the basis of an improbable reversal of the trends based on an advantage of 400,000 points by Calderon with only 800,000+/- to be counted. This was good enough for the financial markets to react with optimism on Monday morning. Would the reaction have been the same if the markets had been aware of the existence of this extra lot? I'd say it's doubtful.

Ugalde claims partly "human error" as the cause, which is surprising considering the absolute volume of votes being left out of the all important PREP count, which was used to inform both the public and the media of the "almost official" results.

A major blunder or foul play? Considering the extraordinary technical knowledge of the IFE and the impressive preparations for this event we can safely rule out the first.

Unfortunately, with this action the integrity of the election has becomed questioned and the neutrality of the IFE is now suspect.

Posted by: Marco Beteta | July 5, 2006 03:04 AM

Marco, the story says errors account for the questionable ballots, it doesn't say human errors caused the delay in reporting them.

This is hardly such a shock and it also follows that if AMLO drew most of his support from the less educated, there is a higher probably of errors in filling out ballots, thus he would benefit the most from the counting of these ballots. There is no evidence of a conspiracy here.

Posted by: JoMama | July 5, 2006 09:20 AM

It's a pity Ceci Connolly is worried about the Mexican vote count, considering how she was a Bush partisan during the 2000 elections and vote recount. Oh, she "pretends" to be a fair and so-called "objective" reporters, but facts betray her. She's a Bush lap dog, pure and simple, a real Republicna shill.

Posted by: Vickie Trempers | July 5, 2006 09:31 AM

The above comment is an uncalled for low blow, unnecessary and reflective of the meanspiritedness of the left which thrives on personal attacks and character assasination.

Quite frankly Gore 2000 has nothing to do with Calderon/Lopez 06, apples and oranges.
Get over it. MoveON!

In mexico there is no electoral college in play so it will all come down to valid votes and turnout.

Let's face it, the polls pretty much said it was a deadheat prior to Sunday and the outcome is reflective of that. Right now Calderon has the lead.
If the outcome is decided by one vote, so be it.

Posted by: VivaCalderon06 | July 5, 2006 10:59 AM

Well said, Keith.

It really has become to close to call.

I guess the Post could have done a better job when chosing who to send to cover the elections. They are being treated the same way a Royalty wedding would be treated. No substance. Tabloid-esque reporting.

Posted by: Mexican In Mexico | July 5, 2006 11:36 AM

Responding to Yakima's ?: "So if I'm reading right, those 3 million votes have yet to be tabulated. Depending on what region they come from, they could be highly skewed toward one candidate or the other,right?_"

In fact, in some of the southern states where AMLO/PRD support is strongest, there were _more votes for congress than for president_. This is an extremely unlikely result, and an indication of vote suppression. In Tabasco, for example, Madrazo, the former governor of the state, and AMLO, his former opponent, both obviously very well-known locally, were on the presidential ballot, so if anything you would expect HIGHER presidential participation in this state. This is just one example, and the pattern suggests there are alot of AMLO votes waiting to be counted.

It's becoming clear now: the plan was to hold down AMLO's total on election night by sweeping votes under the rug and hoping no one notices until Calderon has declared victory, and the media has given him the coveted, sacred aura of "legitimacy." Then force AMLO to contest the result, allowing the media to confirm in their own minds this caricature of AMLO as a rabble-rouser who only respects mob rule.

They tried to steal it and they are daring AMLO to say so. If he protests, they will murder him in the press, maybe arrest him eventually.

Posted by: huey | July 5, 2006 12:42 PM

There is no clear pattern to the differing vote totals between President and Senator. The votes cast for Senator exceeded those cast for President in Guanajuato and Yucatan and Calderon won them both.

Posted by: JoMama | July 5, 2006 02:00 PM

Hmmm ... a quarter of the way into the recount, AMLO has taken the lead.

"Hasta las 12:02 horas López Obrador tiene 36.98% de los votos; Felipe Calderón 34.39%."

Avanza conteo de actas: 25 por ciento de casillas
Jorge Herrera
El Universal
Ciudad de México
Miércoles 05 de julio de 2006

Hasta las 12:02 horas López Obrador tiene 36.98% de los votos; Felipe Calderón 34.39%. No pueden marcar ninguna tendencia

13:05 A diferencia de los resultados emitidos por el PREP del Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), los cómputos iniciales de los 300 Consejos Distritales inician con una ventaja electoral para el candidato presidencial de la coalición Por el Bien de Todos, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Es necesario subrayar que los resultados son iniciales, que podrían cambiar en cualquier momento y que por tanto no marcan ninguna tendencia.

A las 12:02 horas, con el 25.38% de las casillas computadas en los 300 Distritos Electorales del país, se registra una tendencia de votación presidencial a favor de Andrés Manuel López Obrador, abanderado de la coalición Por el Bien de Todos.

Las cifras que remiten los Consejos Distritales hasta las 12:02 horas son las siguientes: --25.38% de casillas computadas.

Candidatos Presidenciales:

--PAN, 34.39%
--Alianza por México: 22.03%
--Coalición Por el Bien de Todos: 36.98%
--Nueva Alianza: 0.92%
--Alternativa Socialdemócrata y Campesina: 2.76%

Votación en Números:

--No registrados: 82 mil 719.
--Válidos: 10 millones 535 mil 213.
--Nulos: 232 mil 78.
--Total: 10 millones 767 mil 291.

Posted by: huey | July 5, 2006 02:33 PM

I do not know whether 3 million votes were deliberately disregarded in the election but most assuredly those in charge of Mexico's social -political and economic structures have disregarded much more than three million Mexican's pleas for economic and social justice.If a reasoned and pragmatic platform such as Mr.Obredor's policies for social change do not succeed in being implemented than we have a most definite recipe for social chaos and continued immigration pressure.

Posted by: Alan K | July 5, 2006 02:58 PM

Update at 13:00 CST with 35.95% of the votes counted:

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 37.06
Felipe Calderón el 34.36.

2.71% difference


Posted by: Emilio | July 5, 2006 02:59 PM

My goodness, this is getting complicated by the minute. Almost halfway through (47.32%) and the difference hasn't really change by much (2.76%) in favor of Obrador. I don't think he's going to accept any drastic jump on Calderon's favor.

Posted by: Emilio | July 5, 2006 04:01 PM

Did Calderon hire Katherine Harris favorite company ChoicePoint to purge voting lists and ballots as she did in Florida??? Seems likely!

Luckily I doubt the Mexican populace will just sit in front of their TVs watching Brittany Spears, but will actually do something about it.

Posted by: Joe Chip | July 5, 2006 04:32 PM

60% of the count is in and AMLO is still up by more than 2.5%

Posted by: Yakima | July 5, 2006 05:11 PM

It seems as if Calderon is slowly closing in (Obrador's lead is now down to 2.42%) although the percentage at this point is a little misleading. As more votes are included (64.34% so far), the percentage represents a bigger number of votes. The 2.42% currently represents a 1 million votes difference!

Posted by: Emilio | July 5, 2006 05:34 PM

With 73.58 of the acts recounted and Obrador leads now by 2.28%.

Early this morning, friend from the PRI told me that acording their copies of the acts, Obrador has 3% of the votes.

While the counts and the vote sites was correct, they found that the values reported to the IFE did not match.

There are supspictions that the votes From Guanajuato, were copied over the votes of other states.

WE must not forget that the software company of Hildebrando, Felipe´s brother in law, participate in the elaboration of the IFE software....

Posted by: Javier Delgado | July 5, 2006 07:57 PM

AMLO's "reasoned and pragmatic" platform is "sit back the government will do everything for you". That hasn't been a recipe for success anywhere else, why would it work in Mexico?

Posted by: JoMama | July 5, 2006 09:07 PM

There is no missing votes. All the ballots have been accounted for.
Each candidate receive the same official copies of the acts. PRD members are known to be liars. AMLO will rather take the country into a revolution before he accepts his defeat because he is only looking for himself and utilizing the poor and needy. You do not help the poor with a revolution. AMLO has already proven what he is capable of during this 6 years in Mexico City. The City is in the worst situation ever.
It is clearly that AMLO is doing everything possible to invalidate the election because he lost. There were no irregularities and even the international observers has confirmed this.

The democracy in Mexico is in jeopardy. AMLO has done the same in previous elections. He will not accept his defeat it does not matter if they count vote for vote. The electoral laws does not allow for the recount of every vote unless irregularities are found. So far most of the irregularities alleged by AMLO have not been sustained or admitted as legitimate.
Your report is clearly biased in favor of AMLO. Reports like yours just fuel the already problematic situation that AMLO and his group of loosers had started

Posted by: livingbettermexico | July 25, 2006 10:02 PM

Latte Liberals...love that!

Te invito a que visites el blog sobre Guadalupe Loaeza en queperezaloaeza.blogia.com y deja tus cometarios buenos, malos o neutrales y lee lo que otros escriben sobre Guadalpe Loaeza



Posted by: Que Pereza Loaeza | August 3, 2006 04:08 AM

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