So, come September 16, Mexico could very well have two presidents.
How the hell did we get to this?
It’s a long story.
So there are two guys, and they both want to be president of Mexico. We do have a third party, but they’re disappearing. This is the old ruling party, the PRI, which held power for seventy years. In elections in the 80s, they “received” 80-90 percent of the vote. Last July, on election day, they received less than 22 percent.
Hence, for all intents and purposes, we have a two-horse race. On the one hand, you have Felipe Calderón, a technocrat and privileged, educated young gun who believes in free trade and open capitalism. On the other, you have Lopez Obrador, a fiery populist in the Hugo Chavez mold with a mean messianic streak. He has repeatedly compared himself to Jesus, in the “I was persecuted but I shall rise again” incarnation.
These two are polar opposites and fairly representative of what has become a fairly sharp divide in Mexico. If you look at the demographics, voting patterns are as discernible as those of the U.S. in the 2000 election. The industrialized, burgeoning, capitalist Northerner, who tends to be better off, more educated and more receptive to globalization, is facing off against the rural, localized Southerner, who tends to be poorer, not as educated and more receptive to more local, narrow economies.
This is a very sharp divide, and Mexico found that out on election day last July. Almost 42 million votes were cast. Calderón narrowly beat out Lopez Obrador by 243, 934 votes, or less than 0.6 percent.
The election is a very transparent process. It’s extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to perpetrate fraud through this system. The most critical aspect of this is that the government does not run the process. Elections are organized and arranged through a wholly independent institution, the Federal Election Institute, which is completely removed from the government itself. During the entire day, and through the official count at each polling place, observers are always present. These include the Institute’s own official observers, observers form the government, observers from each and every one of the political parties and independent observers at large. In fact, the Electoral Institute, created only about ten years ago, has served as an advisor to other countries with fledgling democratic institutions.
There is no evidence of fraud in the election. None. The Mexican courts recently affirmed this contention. In the end, Lopez Obrador did not have the numbers. Fewer votes were cast for him. In a democracy, this means that you lose.
Lopez Obrador, who early in the year had a ten point lead, seemingly cannot conceive of losing. Even before the results came out, he was already on the offensive, saying he would not accept the tally and demanding a recount. This after a preliminary count and a subsequent official count resulted in almost identical numbers. In addition, every exit poll and party count corroborated the result. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Lopez Obrador demanded a recount.
Under Mexican law, however, a recount cannot be mandated unless there is reasonable evidence of irregularities. This is a system designed to eliminate virtually all of them. Still, a recount of ten percent of the ballots was ordered. And, again, the numbers did not change. Probably because the numbers are real.
Lopez Obrador seems to have realized this, and progressively hedged his bets. First, he deligitimized the counts before they happened, thus setting himself for rejecting their count. Wonder why. Afterwards, he started decrying the institutions, accusing the Electoral Institute, the media, the courts and everybody else of being bought by “them.” Now he’s spouting conspiracy theories, in which anyone with even the most minute influence on Mexican life is against him.
Let’s put it this way. If there was an actual conspiracy against him, it would make any other conspiracy look like cake by comparison. It would have to involve the government, the aristocracy, the burgeoisie, the media, the institutions, the polling places, the civilians who counted the ballots, his own representatives who certified the counts, as well as anyone else who has been brainwashed into not certifying him as president of Mexico.
He won’t take no for an answer. Now, he’s beginning to push.
He began by holding marches — pretty standard fare, really. But then he escalated his tactics. Today, Mexico City, a city of 20 million, exists without its most storied, important and circulated avenue. Picture Al Gore’s supporters taking over 5th Avenue, or K street. Paseo de la Reforma now has people living in it, in tents and sleeping bags, and is turning into a Hooverville for the new Millenium. His supporters have been there for over a month now.
Not only has he suffocated Mexico’s main artery, he said we should feel lucky about it. Fortunately for us, according to reports, Lopez Obrador was able to dissuade the hard-liners in his camp from establishing a siege around Mexico City. Nothing going in, nothing going out. Picture Stalingrad. Or post-WWII Berlin. We should all be so lucky.
But his supporters, as I said, are rapidly deserting him. Polls say that if the election were to be held today, Lopez Obrador would lose not by 0.6 percent of the vote, but by a whopping 24 percent. He has not only spent any political capital he might have had, he has heavily overdrawn his account.
Hence, there’s only on recourse for him. His original calls for a recount won’t work, since he received fewer votes and, according to a democracy, that means he lost. He can’t claim massive fraud and have the election annulled since, well, there was no fraud, and, even if he succeeded in having new elections, he would lose by an enormous margin. Now, his only rescourse is to work outside the system.
And that’s exactly what he did. Lopez Obrador has called a National Convention for Democracy to occur on September 16, our Independence Day. In it, representatives from all 31 states will meet and decide what form this “New Mexico” will take. Lopez Obrador recently affirmed that this convention will have the power to declare him president. If they choose to do so.
I love how he was so quick to emphasize that they have a choice in this. This convention, called for by him, with representatives chosen from among his supporters, will have the power to make him President.
So that’s where we are now, and neither I, nor anybody, know where this is going to go. His long downward spiral could peter out as he sinks into irrelevancy. Or he might get enough loonies to go with him, attempt an actual coup, and result in enough martyrs to actually spark a massive revolution.
I don’t know what will happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Carlos Maycotte is The Sun’s Associate Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com. Tequila Sunrise appears Thursdays.