The Campaign That Never Ends
There are no summer doldrums in Mexico, at least not for the political class, journalists or thousands of intensely loyal supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The anticipated post-election lull has turned into a very hectic season filled with counting, litigating, marching and spinning. (No violence, thankfully.) It almost feels as if the campaign never ended, except there are more lawyers around now. At least a July recount comes with sunshine, unlike in Washington six years ago when Tipper Gore provided hot chocolate for shivering reporters and protesters.
But, back to 2006 and Mexico. To recap, Felipe Calderón, the candidate of President Vicente Fox's ruling PAN, was unofficially declared the victor in the July 2 presidential campaign in Mexico. Despite much ado about the tight results, he's been trying his best ever since to pretend there's no debate about that.
His rival, however, along with hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have a different opinion. They see fraud, incompetance and malfeasance in the razor-thin margin and have asked Mexico's electoral tribunal to conduct its first-ever investigation into a presidential vote.
Last weekend, López Obrador again encouraged the masses to take to the streets -- and again, they are responding. By Wednesday, "the marchers, numbering at least 10,000, walked in separate groups from around Mexico City to its central square and said they would not back down until electoral authorities accept" López Obrador's victory, according to Reuters.
La Jornada provides an excellent description of the colorful parade, which is scheduled to culminate with a mass demonstration Sunday in the city's Zocalo.
Counts and Courts
The tribunal has started poring over the 900-page complaint filed by the PRD's López Obrador.
"López Obrador´s lawyers said they cited mathematical errors in the vote tally and ballot stuffing among their complaints to demand a recount of all ballots. In a broader claim against the validity of the election, López Obrador argues President Vicente Fox improperly campaigned on behalf of Felipe Calderón, and used government resources to support him," according to a nice overview by the Miami Herald's Mexico edition.
"The court said in a statement that López Obrador presented challenges in 225 out of 300 electoral districts and Calderón is challenging 129 districts. The PAN submitted challenges calling for the annulment of about 500 polling places as a defense against López Obrador´s court case."
The López Obrador document is so wide-ranging that it appears his team might be aiming for a complete annulment of the election, rather than the recount that the former mayor has discussed.
"Judging from comments by PRD officials, the challenge includes episodes from the campaign, such as IFE's failure to stop the PAN's "dirty war" against López Obrador, the PAN´s access to and use of the electoral rolls and other government rosters for electoral purposes, the Fox administration's support for Calderón, and PAN campaign spending that exceeded limits.
"Those kinds of complaints have led some observers to wonder if a complete election annulment may be a goal, if not the first goal, of the López Obrador camp. Campaign law violations, even if proven, would not be remedied by a full or even a partial recount. Nor would huge fines, such as those levied on the PRI for diverting state oil money to a previous candidate´s campaign, affect the current election.
"How solid the PRD's case is for a recount remains to be seen. (And it will, in fact, be seen; the tribunal sessions will be televised live on cable.) What's clear now is that the status of the election is much more in doubt than the Calderón camp wanted Mexicans and the international community to believe."
López Obrador is still peeved at the electoral commission, whom he has dubbed "delinquents." In addition to his challenge before the federal tribunal, López Obrador said he's asked his lawyers to consider some sort of legal action against the commission.
All the griping about "fraude" has prompted Fox's spokesman to defend the process.
The commission ">went one step farther , launching "radio ads to defend its reputation for fairness. The ads say the voting was overseen by 1 million citizens and that all five competing political parties had observers at most of the voting booths. López Obrador says his Democratic Revolution Party only had observers in 70 percent of the 130,000 polling stations."
Statesman or Pit Bull?
Calderón, meanwhile, can't decide what the best public relations strategy is for this very odd interregnum.
"With the 11-day standoff marked by rising tensions, Calderón called Tuesday for calm, asking all concerned to 'avoid any type of provocation.' The next day, however, Germán Martínez, a prominent PAN member who represents the party before the Federal Electoral Institute, issued a pre-emptive guilty verdict against López Obrador, saying the former Mexico City mayor will be 'the one and only person responsible for any violence that may be generated' in the coming weeks."
In an interview with his hometown paper, Morelia's La Cronica, Calderón said "there is no institutional crisis, even though there have been protests."
In a press conference, he asked followers to "maintain calmness," but he also urged them to begin "civic organizing" to defend his triumph. "You win with votes, not with protests," he said, according to a report in Millenio. He denounced López Obrador's post-election activities and once again praised the electoral commission and the tribunal.
At times, Calderón has attempted to reach out to the López Obrador supporters by embracing AMLO's lift-up-the-poor themes.
"In apparent recognition of his slim advantage in the final vote count - 0.58 percent or 243,000 votes - Calderón pledged to work toward reducing the nation´s enormous class divisions. Helping the poor majority was a central part of López Obrador´s presidential platform.
'The transition will be characterized by agreements on a common agenda that allows the nation to advance toward overcoming inequalities and generating opportunities for everyone,' Calderón said."
But as the piece in the Herald's Mexico edition notes, that olive branch only stretches so far. Calderón has not spoken to PRD governors and he "reiterated that he had 'won the contest at the polls' and was ready to 'respond to doubts' about his legitimacy."
Calderón's presidential posturing prompted a tart response from López Obrador. "It doesn´t cost anything to dream," he scoffed.
Calderón has named his transition team. But fellow blogger and lawyer Ana Maria Salazar wonders if that's legal?
"The public sessions of the Electoral Tribunal of Justice will be broadcast on television in order to give transparency and confidence to the electoral process. (I do not know if this will be great TV but, I am sure it will get great ratings..... "
Campaign Conexión agrees!
Face Time for AMLO
The guy who never really liked reporters much is suddenly spending a lot of time with them. López Obrador has gone four-for-four on press conferences this week. Each day he trickles out a few more videos; the latest allegedly showed some polling places where volunteers overcounted the Calderón ballots. It's not clear to Campaign Conexión that any of these would be relevant in a legal proceeding, but they make for a great TV, especially in a country where millions are predisposed to believe allegations of fraud, greed or incompetance.
At Thursday's news conference he went after television ads aired by two businesses that he says supported Calderón. López Obrador accused the electoral commission of doing nothing to stop the spots paid for by Jumex, a juice company, and Sabritas, a junk food maker.
And it's not just news conferences. AMLO, as his Mexico City constituents have long addressed him, is granting interviews too. In a lengthy piece in La Jornada, he said he would not permit the "deterioration" of Mexican democracy and he asserted his "right" to lead a peaceful protest movement. "We cannot let them cancel the hopes of millions of Mexicans," he said.
Campaign Conexión is wondering if all this playing footsie with the press corps might even extend to non-Mexican journalists????
It would be nice to finish this edition of Campaign Conexión, but alas, no es posible. Take a look at columnist Fred Rosen's "certainties within the uncertainty."
"No matter what the final result, the winning candidate will have to govern a country in which over 60 percent of the electorate voted against him. Given the negativity of the campaign, much of that opposition will be intense. Calderón seems to recognize this and has indirectly offered AMLO a place in his Cabinet!!
"While AMLO is more likely to spend the next few years shoring up his left, not his right flank, a Calderón Cabinet will certainly include a few putative leftists, much like the original Fox Cabinet contained some progressive, 'useful vote' partisans like Jorge Castañeda and Adolfo Aguilar Zinzer -- inclusions that may well have been consequential in determining Mexico's Security Council vote against the U.S. war in Iraq."
Anyone out there have an upbeat thought to share?
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