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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Imagine that it's the year 2000.

The US presidential election has just ended. The votes are being counted, and no one is sure whether Gore or Bush is the next president.

Then imagine that, as the last votes are being counted in from Florida, 3.5 million new uncounted votes turn up from all over the country.

That's pretty much the situation now in Mexico, where both leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and right-winger Felipe Calderon declared victory on the basis of the preliminary results from Sunday's election. While that first count showed Calderon with a lead of about one percent of the vote, a mandatory recount starts later today. And, as it turns out, that recount will include as many as 3.5 million votes that weren't counted the first time through.

Lopez Obrador supporters demonstrate against election fraud

PRD supporters shout 'No Fraud!' in a demonstration in Mexico City.
The sign reads 'Lopez Obrador already is the legal president.'
[Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP]

Hinting at insider corruption and citing a series of voting "irregularities," advisers to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are demanding a manual recount of every single vote and did not rule out street protests to ratchet up pressure on federal election authorities.

"You cannot come to a final outcome if you do not count all the votes," said Manuel Camacho Solis, a top Lopez Obrador aide. "We are going to demand that the votes are counted ... We have the right to go to the streets and we have the right to express our opinion with full freedom...."

Calderon's ruling National Action Party, or PAN, dismissed the allegations of irregularities, portraying Lopez Obrador as a sore loser.

The standoff has left Mexico the equivalent of one hanging chad away from a Latin American version of the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election &3151; only with a greater potential for unrest among the country's poor masses, who already are receptive to the idea of fraudulent elections.

There's good reason for those suspicions. It's generally believed that opposition candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas would have been the victor in the 1988 presidential elections had the then-ruling PRI party not engaged in massive election fraud. Exit polls and early results showed Cárdenas with a subtantial lead over PRI candidate Carlos Salinas. Late in the evening, the government computers went down mysteriously and — surprise! — Salinas was winning when the computers came back up.

Supporters of Lopez Obrador and other observers say that even though the PRI is out of power, the current ruling party may have used some tricks from the PRI's old election playbook:

Even if the 3.5 million votes don't swing the election, the PRD says it has other "inconsistencies" that prove the results are flawed, including double voting in a Calderon stronghold. They also say that hundreds of vote tallies show markings in congressional races but inexplicably no preference in the presidential contest.

A McClatchy photographer working in the troubled southern state of Oaxaca witnessed discrepancies between the vote tallies posted outside voting stations in the town of Tlalcolula and the data appearing on the IFE's Web site. The photographer also found examples of the presidential vote not counted.

PRD officials are also hinting that Calderon may have a conflict of interest in the election agency itself, saying that could explain why computerized returns showed both candidates actually shedding votes in the wee hours of election night.

Namely, Camacho, the Lopez Obrador adviser, said the campaign was looking into allegations that Calderon's brother-in-law had been involved in the creation of vote-tallying software used by the IFE.

"We are investigating this," he said.

As in the 2000 US election, it appears that Mexicans won't know who their next president will be for weeks, and it's not clear what role the 3.5 million uncounted ballots will have in that decision. Many of them will be invalid, and the valid votes will have to skew heavily toward Lopez Obrador in order to reverse Calderon's apparent narrow win. Given the history of Mexican elections, however, almost any result is possible.

The McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) Washington Bureau has an excellent article on the election controversy here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:30 AM | Get permalink

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


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