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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 

Mexican Court Rejects Election Fraud

Update [2006-9-2 by XicanoPwr]:Clarification has been added, signified in gold.

In a 7-0 ruling, the Electoral Court of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF), Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal, ruled that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) had failed to prove that the irregularities in many of the polling places did not stem from fraud, nor had he successfully demonstrated that the errors affected him more than his opponent. Once the Mexican electoral tribunal threw out almost every legal challenge from AMLO, the Mexican electoral tribunal stated it had recognized only a minor mathematical and administrative error in the new vote count of the July 2 presidential election.

Once the TEPJF had finished recounting the votes, they determined that AMLO had only gained 4,183 votes after the court annulled 81,080 votes for Felipe Calderón and 76,897 for López Obrador. The tribunal decided that the outcomes of the recount were not enough to overcome Calderón's margin of victory.

The tribunal has until Sept 6 to issue a final tally and officially name Calderón president-elect. However, between now and the Sept 6 deadline, AMLO still has only one long shot left. TEPJF has yet to rule on one of López Obrador's challenge, if the court were to find President Vicente Fox and business groups had illegally aided Calderón's campaign, TEPJF can choose not to certify the election.

Even though it is reported that TEPJF ruled unanimously, Salvador García Soto op-ed piece says differently. Soto writes that the seven-member court was actually divided. Because the TEPJF did not want to be seen as divided as the country, they chose to make their ruling unanimously.
Hasta este fin de semana, las posiciones al interior del tribunal hablaban de cuatro magistrados a favor de la validación de la elección y, por lo tanto, del triunfo de Felipe Calderón Hinojosa: Alejandro Luna Ramos, Eloy Fuentes Cerda, Alfonsina Berta Navarro y Mauro Miguel Reyes Zapata; en tanto que los tres magistrados restantes -el presidente, Leonel Castillo, Fernando Ojesto Martínez Porcayo y José de Jesús Orozco Enríquez, argumentan que hay elementos "suficientes" para no declarar válida la elección.
Loosely translated and with grammatical corrections, it reads -
Until this past weekend, the position inside the court, only four magistrates were in favor of the validating the election. Those who were in favor of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa were Alejandro Luna Ramos, Eloy Fuentes Cerda, Alfonsina Berta Navarro y Mauro Miguel Reyes Zapata. The three remaining magistrates [in favor of AMLO] - the president, Leonel Castillo, Fernando Ojesto Martínez Porcayo y José de Jesús Orozco Enríquez, argued that there were "sufficient" elements not to validate the election.
What is disturbing about this finding, the numbers do not match what was reported made by the Mexican Press, Narco News, and Obrador. It is interesting to note, that a couple of weeks went by after the completion of the recount on Aug 13.

During these two weeks, two versions (PRD and the media) emerged of what happened during the recount. The most that was reported that would be annulled was by Narco News who reported that 126,282 votes altered.
  • In 3,074 precincts (29 percent of those recounted), 45,890 illegal votes, above the number of voters who cast ballots in each polling place, were found stuffed inside the ballot boxes (an average of 15 for each of these precincts, primarily in strongholds of the National Action Party, known as the PAN, of President Vicente Fox and his candidate, Felipe Calderón).
  • In 4,368 precincts (41 percent of those recounted), 80,392 ballots of citizens who did vote are missing (an average of 18 votes in each of these precincts).
  • Together, these 7,442 precincts contain about 70 percent of the ballots recounted. The total amount of ballots either stolen or forged adds up to 126,282 votes altered.
However, TEPJF annulled 157,897 157,977 votes combined for Calderón and AMLO,* more than what was reported. In an interview with Amy Goodman, Mark Weisbrot, co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, also felt there was a lack of transparency.

Last week, I wrote that in an interview with the online newspaper, People's Weekly World, a source inside Mexico's intelligence services told the World that four of the seven judges on the tribunal "respond to the interests of Calderon" and that "President Vicente Fox was able to pressure the tribunal."

One of the uphill battles AMLO and his supporters face is convincing people that the court had benn tainted by partisanship because many people have expressed confidence in the 10-year-old TEPJF. Who can blame them, after ruling over 20,000 election cases, TEPJF has ruled against all parties at some time or another. In fact, one of their landmark cases occurred in December 2000 when the Tribunal had annulled a governor's race in Tabasco in which the PRI candidate had defeated the PRD candidate by 1.11 percent. In a 4-2 rulng, the court ordered a new election be conducted because the tribunal found "grave irregularities" such as vote buying and there was greater coverage produced for the PRI candidate by the state-owned television network.

The two judges who championed for annulling the election were Judges Castillo and Reyes Zapata who argued that citizens should enjoy the right to select their leaders in an equitable contest. The Tabasco ruling is key for TEPJF's ultimate ruling on this election because charges have been made that there have been enough irregularities - including negative campaigning and alleged governmental interference - to call the election into question. Yet, according to Soto's op-ed piece, it seems, either Judge Reyes Zapata had a change of heart in his definition of determining "grave irregularities" or his $415,000 salary isn't large enough to keep him from being bought.

As political tension and uncertainty continue to grip Mexico, its people will have to await for TEPJF's ultimate ruling - to certify the election or not.

*[Clarification: A total of 237,736 votes were annulled: break down - 81,080 Calderón; 76,897 for AMLO; 63,114 for Roberto Madrazo (PRI-PVEM); 5,962 for Patricia Mercado (Alternativa); 2,743 for Roberto Campa (Panal) and 7,940 for the remaining candidates. Therefore, the 157,977 votes stated in the piece above represented the combined for Calderón and AMLO.]


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