July 6, 2006

The Mexican election count

Earlier in the week, much of the American media triumphantly reported that the (relatively) rightist/globalist PAN (incumbent party) candidate Calderon held a seemingly insurmountable one point lead over the leftist candidate Lopez Obrador of the PRD, and insinuated that the leftist was a sore loser and potentially violent anti-democrat (like you-know-who, the Venezuelan boogieman) for refusing to give in to the inevitable. Well, it turns out that was just the preliminary count, which missed 3 million votes!

Now, Lopez Obrador has the lead in the official count, but it's narrowing as votes from the pro-PAN far northwest trickle in. As of the wee hours of the morning of Thursday, July 6, CNN reports:

Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is holding a narrow lead over conservative Felipe Calderon in Mexico's contentious presidential election. With nearly 96 percent of the vote counted late Wednesday, Obrador had about 35.8 percent, compared to about 35.4 percent for Calderon.

This is reminiscent of Election Day 2000, when the networks first declared that Al Gore had won Florida and thus the Presidency, then declared that George W. Bush had won Florida. But as I watched after the declaration for Bush, I noticed that as more and more precincts came in, Bush's lead kept narrowing, and that it was narrowing at exactly the pace you'd expect if the ultimate result was a tie.

To extend the Florida 2000 analogy further, it looks like there was incompetence and/or fraud in filling out and/or counting the votes in Mexico. The NYT reports:

Visits to a few district offices in the industrial city of Guadalajara, a stronghold of Mr. Calderón's National Action Party [PAN], offered a glimpse of the tensions in the process, and the potential for errors and irregularities in the initial tabulation.

Six ballot boxes were opened for a recount in District 8 because of errors on the tally sheets. In every case, the preliminary tallies turned out to be wrong.

In one case, polling workers had miscounted so badly that they gave 100 extra votes to a third candidate, Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI], and doubled the 235 votes for Mr. Calderón. Mr. López Obrador's count was not affected.

If I was to judge purely on the basis of historical fairness, I'd have to say my sympathies are with the party of the left in this election because it had the 1988 election stolen from it by blatant fraud by the longtime ruling PRI. Something that's not well understood about the PRI is that, like the Democratic machine in Chicago, it preferred not to steal elections, but to actually win them. In 1988, however, much to the surprise of the PRI, it was getting beat, so it announced that the vote-counting computers had crashed. When they came up again, what do you know, the PRI's Salinas was in the lead!

I have a vague suspicion that the 1994 and 2000 elections were somewhat prearranged, with PAN not putting up a tough fight in 1994 in return for PRI agreeing not to cheat to keep PAN from winning in 2000 (and perhaps PAN agreeing not to investigate any financial skullduggery by the family of the last PRI president, Zedillo). I don't have much evidence for this, but in a 3 party system, two competitors can make agreements like this to squeeze out the third, as Andy Jackson's supporters alleged about John Quincy Adams' "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay in the 3-way 1824 election. It's not necessarily corrupt, but if you are the odd man out, it's easy to feel sore about it. The PRD still hasn't ever had a term in office.

Anyway, it's striking how biased against the left party the American press has appeared during the ballot counting, even though the PRD has had a self-sacrificing history of not trying to reverse in the streets electoral cheating against it. Even the far left in Mexico, the Zapatistas rebels of Chiapas, have largely foregone violence for an innovative form of post-modern media-savvy political theater.

The America press' bias in favor of the incumbent is the mirror image of its bias in favor of the challenger Kostunica in the 2000 Yugoslavian election. The challenger Kostunica announced that he had won the election with (as I recall but don't quote me) 57% of the vote, but the election board said he only got 49.8%, mandating a runoff against the incumbent Milosevic (in contrast, in case you were wondering, to the Mexican system where only a plurality is needed).

The American press scoffed at this attempt to deprive Kostunica of his landslide victory. Then Kostunica announced that, well, actually, he'd only got about 53% of the vote, while the election board stuck with its 49.8% story. Then Kostunica said, well, he only got 51.5%. In other words, whatever the actual number was, the election board's 49.8% had to be closer to the truth than Kostunica's original 57% claim.

But, details like how many votes the candidates got ultimately didn't matter, because a vast mob of Kostunica's supporters set fire to the Parliament building and the state television station. Milosevic's riot police refused to respond to the pro-Kostunica violence with violence, so Kostunica took over. This coup was universally praised as a triumph of democracy.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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