Was the Mexican Election Stolen? Questions Raised Over Results From Preliminary Recount

August 24, 2006

As protests for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continue in Mexico, we take a look at the country’s contested presidential election. Mexico’s Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s says Mexico’s handling of the recount raises questions about the lack of transparency in the recount and the election. [includes rush transcript]

In Mexico, President Vicente Fox said this week that his ruling party ally, Felipe Calderon, was the "clear winner" of the country’s disputed presidential election. His comments came ten days before Mexico"s top electoral court is to rule on fraud claims brought by populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Fox also warned against what he called "extremist" and "messianic" politics in a clear criticism of Lopez Obrador who has launched massive demonstrations over the past few weeks to press for a full ballot-by-ballot recount of the vote. Official tally results in July put Calderon ahead by two hundred forty thousand votes–or just over half a percentage point. Lopez Obrador soon filed claims challenging the results alleging fraud and government interference.

Supporters of Lopez Obrador have brought the capital to a virtual standstill over the past few weeks with round-the-clock protest camps, blocking streets and launching demonstrations. The electoral court has to rule on the fraud claims by the end of the month and name a new president by September 6th.

The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research recently conducted an analysis: of Mexico’s recounted ballots that raises questions about the lack of transparency in the recount.

  • Mark Weisbrot, co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research recently conducted an analysis of Mexico’s recounted ballots that raises questions about the lack of transparency in the recount. We’re joined now by the group’s co-director Mark Weisbrot. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

MARK WEISBROT: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you find?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, we looked at the first recount, which they didn’t really release the results very well of that either, and that was only 2.2% that they recounted. But they’ve since recounted 9%, and they won’t tell us what the results of those are. And that’s, I think, a major violation of basic transparency.

But also we do know certain things. I mean, we’ve analyzed the data. For example, the Lopez Obrador campaign has claimed that in the majority, the vast majority of the ballot boxes, the ballots were not really kept track of. So each ballot box gets a certain amount of ballots. And then, the total votes plus the leftover blanks are supposed to add up to the ballots that you got at the beginning of the election. And that didn’t add up for the majority of the ballot boxes. So right there, and we verified that by just analyzing the data that’s available. And so, that’s true, and that, by itself — and that’s why it’s so strange for the President of the country to say that it’s extremist or to even declare that there’s a winner, when you have — more than half of the ballot boxes don’t add up. And that by itself is enough of a reason to have a full recount, even aside from all the other irregularities, and there’s quite a few.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of the recount that was done, of this 9% of the ballots, it’s been now, what, a couple of weeks since they completed that recount? And the political parties had observers there, so they all have their versions of what happened there. But there’s no official announcement yet of these results?

MARK WEISBROT: No. And I think, again, that’s deliberate, because right now we have the two versions. If you take Lopez Obrador’s version, which I think is probably true, they said that Calderon lost 13,000 votes, which is about 1% of his total, and Lopez Obrador didn’t lose any. So if you look at the media reports, they say 5,000 to 7,000. But either way, that’s a lot, and it’s clearly going only one way. In other words, the recount showed that only one side had votes that were thrown out in the partial recount. Again, another very big reason to do a full recount and another reason, I think, why they’re not releasing the results, because if everybody got to see the results of this partial recount, they might be forced — they might have public pressure to do a full recount.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And these massive demonstrations that have been occurring now in Mexico City for weeks, they have gotten very little coverage here in the United States. I’m thinking back to when the massive protests in the Ukraine and some of the other Russian republics over allegations of election fraud. But there hasn’t been much coverage here in the U.S. press of these protests right with our southern neighbor.

MARK WEISBROT: No. Not very much. And especially the allegations, like the one I just said before. That’s not even allegation. That’s a verifiable fact, that you have the majority of ballot boxes where the votes don’t add up, the ballots aren’t kept track of. So that hasn’t — the media hasn’t made an issue out of that. And they haven’t made any issue out of the fact that the tribunal is withholding the results. And I’m actually worried that they’re going to not even wait until the August 31 deadline. They’re going to announce the result before the public gets to see what happened in the two recounts that they already did.

AMY GOODMAN: What does this mean for the future of Mexico?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think it’s huge. I mean, the issues in this election are very big. Mexico has had a terrible economic failure over the last 25 years. The total economic growth has been about 17% per capita over a 25-year period, as opposed to 99% from 1960 to 1980. And it’s been a terrible failure, a terrible economic failure.

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds, unfortunately.

MARK WEISBROT: So this is really — there’s two competing candidates with two competing visions of economic policy and what they’re going do for poor people in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you think Lopez Obrador will ever concede? Do you think he could be declared the victor?

MARK WEISBROT: It’s possible. It depends again on if there’s public pressure to do a full recount or to nullify the results of the election. I don’t think they would have even gotten the partial recount if he hadn’t brought over a million people into the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, I want to thank you for being with us, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.