Of Mexican Plots
and the National Good
A friend of mine, when deciding whether or not to
do something, throws a coin high in the air: heads, go for it, tails, don’t.
That doesn’t mean he leaves his decision to
chance. While the coin is in the air he finds out which way he hopes it will land, and that forms his decision, whether or
not the coin confirms that path of action.
Mexicans who weren’t sure whether to vote for
the right or the left shared some of that during last week’s official vote count conducted under the Federal Electoral
The four-day hiatus allowed us to observe the post-election
comportment of the two main candidates. It might give people pause to rethink their election hopes.
The official result showed that of 42 million votes
cast, Felipe Calderon defeated Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by 244,000.
Before the count began Calderon, candidate for the
National Action Party (PAN), said he would accept the IFE verdict even if he lost. Afterwards, and already on record to seek
inter-party cooperation, he publicly offered his main opponent a cabinet post.
No peace pipe smoking for Lopez Obrador, the firebrand
candidate of the Coalition for the Good of All. The coalition embraces three leftist groups – the Party of the Democratic
Revolution (PRD), the Workers’ Party, and the Convergence Party.
Over the years Lopez Obrador has carved out a name
for himself, crying “Plot!” each time he or his party loses in the political or judicial arena. He’s doing
This tactic, which brings to mind the story of the
little boy who cried “Wolf!,” means even a setback is never a complete loss. Lost battles are a chance to do his
“underdog man of the people” thing in the streets, where he gives followers his version of events without the
risk of someone correcting him for shading the facts.
Lopez Obrador will file with the Federal Electoral
Tribunal (TRIFE) for a ballot-by-ballot recount. If granted, that would leave the nation in electoral suspended animation
for another two months. With more than half a percentage point separating the candidates, it’s unlikely to change anything.
Apart from the populist rhetoric, Lopez Obrador seems
free from the discipline of consistency. He didn’t spend all week gainsaying the IFE. He sang its praises during the
few hours on Wednesday when the count showed him leading. The smiles turned to frowns only in the dead of night, when Calderon
Apart from showing shameful immaturity, that “playing-to-the-masses”
chicanery implied to his less-well-lettered followers, of whom there are many, that IFE competence hinged on whether it awarded
That’s hardly the worldview one would expect
of a national politician, hardly the way to teach his followers about electoral democracy.
A politician who cries “Foul!” before
unschooled people who love and support him, and who believe whatever he says, would do them a major courtesy by sticking to
As things turned out, IFE chief Luis Carlos Ugalde
was left to set the record straight on a couple of items.
The “three million hidden votes” Lopez
Obrador blithely referred to on Monday were 2.5 million ballots set aside by vote-counters because of inconsistencies, in
accordance with a Feb. 10 all-party agreement. Ugalde graciously conceded that the “inconsistency file” generated
some confusion, but we know where that came from.
As for Lopez Obrador’s demand that IFE “open
all election boxes” to count each ballot, Ugalde said, “IFE has the legal obligation to do so only when there
is just cause, as specified in the law.”
Whether or not there are grounds for a detailed count,
there comes a moment in national elections when the good of the nation should trump the aggrieved feelings of a candidate.
Nor would this be the first time a losing candidate
has stood down for national stability despite having a legitimate gripe against the electoral process.
It’s what Cuauhtemoc Cardenas did in 1988,
when to avoid destabilizing the nation he courageously accepted defeat in the face of blatant electoral fraud. It’s
what U.S. Democratic Party candidate Al Gore did in 2000.
It’s shameful that the Federal Electoral Tribunal
must make this decision instead of the candidate.
After the official count, Ugalde said Mexicans “should
be proud, quiet and serene because we have completed the most hard-fought election Mexico has ever had, within a legal framework.”
In other words, the outcome of Sunday’s election,
though delayed, is much more than a coin toss.
Kenneth Emmond, an economist, market consultant and
journalist who has lived in Mexico since 1995, is also a columnist with MexiData.info.
He can be reached via e-mail at Kemmond00@yahoo.com.