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Column 081312 Wall

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mexico's Post-election Protests: Justified or by Sore Losers?

By Allan Wall

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) was a candidate for president of Mexico for the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) and two smaller parties.  AMLO was the election's runner-up, but he didn't accept his defeat and is now disputing the election results.

Wait a minute.  Are we talking about the 2006 election, or the 2012 election?

It could be either, because the same thing happened both times.  Déjà vu?  Or just another Mexican presidential election involving AMLO?

Yes, AMLO is indeed disputing another election, as he did six years ago.

Certainly there are some differences between 2006 and 2012.  The race in 2006 was much closer.  In that one, Felipe Calderon of the PAN (Partido Acción National) edged AMLO out by a mere quarter million votes.  This time around, AMLO was defeated by Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) by 3.3 million votes.

AMLO wants the election results annulled, and for an interim president to take charge until it's all sorted out.

Supposing that the electoral tribunal annuls the election, how would an interim president be chosen and how could he be expected to be agreeable to all parties?

Another interesting aspect of the contention is that AMLO is not disputing all the election results.  The 2012 election, after all, was not just for president. Mexicans also chose an entirely new congress.  Gubernatorial elections were held in six states.  Legislative and municipal elections were held in 12 states.  In Mexico City, the Federal District, a new mayor was chosen, a new legislative assembly was elected, and the leaders of the city's 16 boroughs were elected.

Yet AMLO and his three political parties are not protesting any of their victories, but the presidential election he lost.

No doubt there were irregularities, but can Lopez Obrador prove they cost him the election?

One of AMLO's charges is that the PRI distributed pre-paid purchase cards to voters.  However, the PRI is not the only party in Mexico to have given away cards to sway voters.  AMLO's own PRD has distributed cards in Mexico City.  The PAN has distributed cards in at least one state election in the past.  I imagine this is all the tip of the iceberg.

Mexican election law is a little vague on the topic, as it does not forbid the giving of gifts by political parties, but it does prohibit using such gifts to influence voters.  But how can you distinguish between the two?  It's not always that easy.

Lopez Obrador claims that the PRI bought 5 million votes but he can't really prove it.  How can he prove that those 5 million voters wouldn't have voted for the PRI anyway?  There are Mexican voters who faithfully vote for the PRI and really believe it's the best option.

And over the years, the PRI built up an enormous infrastructure of government patronage to organize voters to vote for the party.  This infrastructure was not totally dismantled when the PRI lost the presidency in 2000.

As for "buying votes," that goes on in many countries.  And there are several ways to buy votes.  Here in the U.S.A., our candidates promise all sorts of benefits to voters, which is a form of buying votes.  Of course, it's not their own money they're being so generous with, is it? 

As far as campaign finance, there were probably all sorts of things going on in Mexico in the 2012 election, and not just in the PRI.  AMLO's campaign is said to have received unauthorized money from several sources.

The Mexican electoral tribunal could hypothetically annul the election, but it seems doubtful.  So what follows?

Peña Nieto is scheduled to take office on December 1st.  Will those who don't recognize his election try to block him from taking office, as was unsuccessfully attempted against Calderon back in 2006?  There may well be some sort of attempt, though I imagine it will fail also.

Much of the opposition will probably fizzle out by December 1st, when Peña Nieto is scheduled to take office.  After all, Mexico has a long period (five months) between the presidential election and the taking of office.

However, I wouldn't expect AMLO to back down, just as he did not six years ago, and he and his most dedicated associates and followers can be expected to keep the contention going.  But as the months pass by, how many Mexicans are still going to be listening to Lopez Obrador?


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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