Obrador's fraud charges in the Mexico 2006 presidential election

Obrador is contesting the July 2006 Mexican presidential election in court, charging Calderon won due to fraud. (We claim, even assuming everything was 100%-fraud-free, that it is fairly clear Calderon only won as an artifact of the plurality voting system and would not have won under better voting systems.) This caused the Peso and entire Mexican stock market to drop.

Below, we give several news articles on this. Since reversing even one vote per polling place would suffice to give Obrador the victory, obviously Obrador's charges about irregularities at nearly 40% of all polling places, are highly significant if correct.

Here is a Reuters article 10 July 2006:

July 10 (Reuters) - Mexican leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has gone to court to challenge conservative rival Felipe Calderon's narrow victory in the July 2 presidential election which he says was fraudulent. Here are some facts about the legal process:

* Lopez Obrador has asked Mexico's electoral court, known as the Trife, to order a vote-for-vote recount of ballot papers, rather than a recount of vote tally sheets which has already been carried out and showed him losing by less than 1 percentage point. Lopez Obrador is not seeking the annulment of the election but hopes a recount would show fraud or major irregularities and that the court will then declare him the winner.

* Lopez Obrador says there were irregularities at 50,000 of the some 130,500 polling stations, including ballot counts that were altered to show fewer votes for him or more votes for his opponent. Supporters of the conservative also illegally stuffed ballot boxes with votes for Calderon, the leftist says.

* The electoral court is made up of seven magistrates who are named by the Supreme Court for a 10-year period and are generally seen as free from political influence or bias.

* The judges have until Aug. 31 to rule on each of Lopez Obrador's points of contention and then must announce who is the next president by Sept. 6. Given the complexity of the case, a quick ruling is not expected.

* The court's ruling on the election is definitive under Mexican law.

* The court has shown its teeth before, annulling a governorship vote in the state of Colima in 2003 and one in Tabasco state in 2000 because the state governments tried to influence the vote.

Here is a UPI article 10 July 2006:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The weekend demonstration by 150,000 supporters of losing presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City`s main plaza, minted by the formal initiation Monday of a legal challenge to official election results, will test the mettle of Mexico`s burgeoning democracy.

In a portentous display at Saturday`s rally, Lopez Obrador said: "If there is not democracy, there will be instability," according to the New York Times.

Felipe Calderon of the governing National Action Party won the contest by a razor-thin margin, and has stayed comparatively quiet since hearing the official results.

The Federal Election Institute announced last week that conservative candidate Calderon defeated the populist Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party by 0.58 percent of the vote. The European Union`s monitors did not report evidence of fraud, but analysts say the IFE`s credibility is in question.

"IFE was not up front with the public," George Grayson, a professor at George Mason University who monitored the elections in Mexico City, told United Press International. He referred to the approximate 2.6 million votes the IFE initially excluded from the rapid vote count without informing the public. The votes were assimilated into the results after Lopez Obrador publicly complained.

"IFE is clearly not neutral," agreed Mark Weisprot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

"Of the 2.6 million ballots set aside, the overwhelming majority of them were pro-AMLO votes," Weisprot told UPI, referring to Lopez Obrador by his initials, as is commonly done. These ballots nearly cut in half Calderon`s lead over Lopez Obrador.

"The most questionable thing of all that IFE did was when (IFE President Luis Carlos) Ugalde went beyond his authority by declaring a winner," said Weisprot.

Ugalde announced Thursday night Caldeorn beat Lopez Obrador, but only the Federal Election Tribunal has legal authority to declare a victor, said the Mexican newspaper El Universal.

IFE`s moves establish the impression that Calderon deserves the presidency even though it does not have jurisdiction in this area, Weisport told UPI.

Calderon and Lopez Obrador`s campaigns polarized the country. Election results illuminate the regional and social fault lines of the country, according to exit polls from Mexican newspaper La Reforma. Calderon drew his support from the wealthier northern states, while poorer southern voters tended to back Lopez Obrador.

The Mexico City federal district is the anomaly. It has the highest per capita income, but was solidly behind its former mayor Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador emphasized the peacefulness of Saturday`s protest, but his conformity to Mexico`s questionable election system is far from guaranteed.

"He is authoritarian, dogmatic, secretive and he is not democratic. That was evident in his tenure as mayor of Mexico City. He regularly killed bills illegally the city council passed," said Grayson, who authored a biography of Lopez Obrador called "The Mexican Messiah."

Lopez Obrador himself is no stranger to electoral controversy, nor is Mexico itself.

In 2005, the attorney general ultimately dropped an investigation of a misdemeanor against Lopez Obrador that appeared politically motivated to many as a way to derail his presidential aspirations. One million people protested in the streets of Mexico City against the attorney general, who ultimately resigned.

In the aftermath of his loss to Roberto Madrazo in a 1994 vote widely regarded as illegitimate for governor of Tabasco state, police violently clashed with Lopez Obrador and his supporters.

Despite the politician`s past, Weisport does not foresee any major disruptions.

"I don`t see Lopez Obrador as being stubborn or extreme on this. He just wants to see that the vote was fair," he said, noting, however, that as powerful stakeholders announce they accept the result of the elections, pressure will mount for Lopez Obrador to concede.

Lurking in the back of many Mexican`s memories is the notorious 1988 election in which the computer system tabulating the vote mysteriously crashed before Carlos Salinas of the ruling Institutionalized Revolution Party won the ballot and extended the PRI`s authoritarian rule.

Lopez Obrador wants a full recount of the 41 million votes cast, but Grayson criticizes this possibility.

"It sounds so noble to do this, to do a vote by vote recount, but it`s an invitation for fraud," Grayson told UPI. He expects the PRD governors and Mexico City mayor to abandon their protests soon. Many foreign leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, have already congratulated Calderon.

Here is a Ginger Thompson article in the Chicago Tribune 11 July 2006 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0607110193jul11,1,605874.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed (also appeared in NY Times):

Mexican candidate says videos show fraud

Lopez Obrador steps up pressure

MEXICO CITY – On the morning after his campaign filed a legal challenge to last week's presidential election, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stepped up his public campaign against the vote, screening two videos that he said proved the election was flawed.

One video screened Monday showed what he described as a voter in President Vicente Fox's home state of Guanajuato illegally stuffing a ballot box in the race for Congress.

The other video, he said, showed that election officials in the state of Queretaro had wrongly given his conservative opponent, Felipe Calderon, 200 more votes than he had actually won at one polling station.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity or content of the videos, or whether the alleged content had any bearing on the race for president. Still, the screening of the videos at a news conference added to Mexico's sense of political uncertainty.

It also offered a glimpse of the kinds of materials that Lopez Obrador is likely to present as he tries to drum up support for his legal challenge.

Election authorities announced last week that Calderon, a former energy minister, had defeated Lopez Obrador by a margin of 243,000 votes out of 41 million cast. Those results have not been ratified by the federal electoral tribunal, which has until Aug. 31 to rule on whether it will grant Lopez Obrador's request for a recount.

Until it rules, Mexico remains without a settled heir to the presidency.

Fox's spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Monday that Fox would not meet with Calderon or Lopez Obrador until the electoral tribunal certified the winner.

Fox, meanwhile, made his first public appearances since the election, and did not speak about the matter.

Lopez Obrador, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, has until Monday night to finish filing his complaint. His aides have said that the complaint will highlight irregularities at more than half of the 300 district offices across the country. Monday's videos, they said, were intended to bring those accusations to life.

"This is an election where we confronted all the apparatus, and all the mapaches we thought did not exist anymore," Lopez Obrador said, using slang for someone who oversees cheating at the polls. "This is the kind of thing that happened in the past. We were supposed to have advanced."

Calderon, of the National Action Party, rejects those accusations, saying that the elections were the most transparent in Mexico's history. He has said he opposes a recount because it could force authorities to annul the election.

Arturo Sarukhan, an adviser to Calderon, said their campaign would have no response to the videos. He said Calderon had been in meetings all day with campaign leaders to begin preparing for the transition of power. And he said that next week Calderon would begin traveling across the country to begin thanking people for their support.

Here is a Kevin Hall article in the San Jose Mercury News 10 July 2006:

MEXICO CITY - The fate of Mexico's hotly contested presidential election is in the hands of a special electoral court, which must declare a winner. But for many Mexicans, that result, no matter who wins, amounts to a stain on the country's young and fragile democracy.

"There was manipulation," said Veronica Mendoza, a Mexico City voter who cast her ballot for the apparent winner, conservative Felipe Calderon, yet admits feeling disappointed in the acrimony surrounding the outcome. "I don't know if there was theft, but there was manipulation."

Six years ago, Mexicans celebrated the end of seven decades of often-corrupt rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI in its Spanish initials. Vicente Fox, of the National Action Party, or PAN, a boot-wearing rancher with the rugged good looks of the Marlboro man, had become the first non-PRI politician to win the presidency since 1929, and Mexicans hoped his victory would usher in a new era of untainted elections.

But the disputed result of the first presidential election since, with the PAN's Calderon leading by only 243,000 votes out of more than 41 million cast July 2, finds few celebrating now. The apparent loser, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, on Monday filed the last of 152 lawsuits aimed at persuading the Federal Electoral Tribunal, or TRIFE, to order a recount of every vote in every polling station.

The TRIFE (pronounced TREE-fay), which had never been asked to call a presidential election, must rule on those suits by Aug. 31 and declare a winner by Sept. 6.

Mexico's political future hangs in the balance, and Mexicans are trying to figure out whom to blame: Fox, the campaigns or the entire election process.

"It looked like we had advanced, but we have gone backwards," said Consuelo Jimenez, a bureaucrat in the federal education ministry. "It's a step backwards. The last election was much clearer."

Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive who once had the reputation of being above the fray, gets the blame from some for his administration's championing last year of an effort to bring criminal charges against Lopez Obrador, who then was Mexico City's mayor, over a minor property dispute. Had the effort been successful, Lopez Obrador would've been barred from running for president. Instead, he became a political martyr.

Once the election campaign began, Fox was perceived as an active participant, in violation of Mexican law. Twice, the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, rebuked him for interference.

In February, the IFE (pronounced EE-fay) ordered Fox to pull television ads touting his presidential achievements, determining that they were designed to benefit Calderon. In June, the Fox administration was ordered to pull spots the Interior Ministry created that exhorted Mexicans to vote with this loaded slogan: "We did it once, now we have to do it again."

Both acts struck many people as similar to the way PRI politicians once used the government to push the party's candidates.

Gabriel Guerra Castellanos, a political analyst and a former spokesman for a PRI president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, said Fox and his administration would have better served Mexico's democratic hopes by remaining silent. "The federal government, and the president in particular, have been reckless in speaking out so strongly before the election," he said.

Lopez Obrador's campaign also has problems with credibility. A former member of the PRI, Lopez Obrador surrounded himself with a virtual who's who of ex-PRI members tied to allegations of election fraud. His campaign chief, Manuel Camacho Solis, held the same position in 1988 for Salinas, who may be the most vilified man in Mexico.

In 1988, Salinas and the PRI narrowly won the presidency after a mysterious computer crash that many Mexicans think was an orchestrated fraud. It fell to Camacho to negotiate on behalf of the PRI to get other parties to accept the tainted results. In effect, the people crying fraud now are the same ones who denied it in 1988 when the signs were far more obvious.

Opinion polls consistently show that Mexicans hold their political parties in low regard. The same polls showed them trusting the IFE. Until this election, that is.

At the behest of the United Nations, the IFE has trained electoral authorities in Iraq and across the Americas. But, rightly or wrongly, many Mexicans now question whether the IFE is a fair electoral referee.

That's because it failed to deliver a promised quick count and took nearly three days to acknowledge that while it had said that more than 98 percent of the ballots had been counted, more than 3 million had been set aside for a closer look. By then, Lopez Obrador was claiming that millions of votes were missing.

The Mexico City daily newspaper El Universal ran a cover story Monday on its weekly magazine insert titled "The Run-Over Referee." It focused on the political missteps of IFE chief Luis Carlos Ugalde, 40, a technocrat who became Mexico's top election authority in 2003. When he took the post, many questioned his lack of political experience.

Many Mexicans were willing to believe Lopez Obrador's accusations of IFE partiality because Calderon's brother-in-law, Diego Zavala, was among the bidders to upgrade Mexico's vote-counting software. He didn't get the contract, but that hasn't stopped Lopez Obrador's supporters and some partisan organizations from alleging that Zavala designed the software.

Still, some analysts think that even though the election is contested, tainted and subject to wild conspiracy theories, Mexico's institutions will emerge stronger than ever.

"In the past, most of this would be hidden," said Rod Camp, a professor at California's Claremont College who specializes in Mexican elections. "In that sense, it's a test of the system, but the system is strong enough to survive."

Here is a BBC news piece 10 July 2006:

Mexico press at odds over election crisis

Some of Mexico's leading newspapers are in sharp disagreement over the measures being taken by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to challenge the official result of the presidential election.

Commentaries range from support for his right to demand a thorough recount to condemnation which accuses him of being a bad loser and putting the country's stability at risk.

El Universal believes that Mr Lopez Obrador is perfectly within his right in "letting the law speak" and demanding the recount.

"Mr Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is acting within the law in challenging the result of the presidential election."

The editorial continues: "It is pretty worrying that there was an abstention level of over 40% and that the country has been split into three, meaning that, whatever the outcome, we will have a president elected by a minority of voters, albeit by a majority of votes cast."

"The next six-year government deserves to begin its term with full legitimacy so that it can tackle the country's unresolved problems swiftly and from a united front."

Sovereignty resides in the people and not in some doubtful calculations – La Jornada

Writing in the same paper, economist Jorge Zepeada Patterson argues that the recount is justified as "Calderon was the candidate of the powers that be".

"It is vital to heed the suspicions and doubts of the losers, especially when they have already been victims in the past," he says, noting that Mr Lopez Obrador had lost a previous election for governor amid allegations of fraud.

'Monumental errors'

The leftist Mexico City daily La Jornada launches a scathing attack on the electoral authorities, accusing them of using a variety of dubious tactics and calculations to arrive at a Calderon victory.

"The presumed errors of the electoral authorities are so monumental and inexplicable," La Jornada argues, that it is not surprising there is increasing talk of "fraud against the popular will".

La Jornada concludes that "sovereignty resides in the people and not in some doubtful calculations. If the ruling party is so sure of victory, it should accept a vote by vote recount."

At this point Lopez Obrador's supporters should give up...the leader's problems are incurable. – La Cronica de Hoy

For Reforma, "Lopez Obrador has every right to take his case to the authorities. What is not right is for him to exert pressure on them in order to advance his cause."

"He has already called a nationwide march, fresh demonstrations in the Federal District... and is announcing a second 'informative assembly'. Could it be that he wants to find in the streets what he failed to find at the ballot box?"

Writing in Reforma, Miguel Angel Granados Chapa asks the electoral judges "to dispel our doubts".

"The electoral judges hold in their hands the golden opportunity to mete out electoral justice at a crucial point for Mexicans."


Pablo Hiriart in La Cronica de Hoy takes Mr Lopez Obrador to task for mounting his challenge.

"Now Lopez Obrador wants to make us believe that he won the presidential elections. That the 800,000 members of the public who took part in the vote count on 2 July connived in a plot.

"That the IFE [Federal Electoral Institute] officials and the scientists who designed and monitored the Preliminary Electoral Results Programme (PREP) were also involved in the plot to strip him of victory.

"This is too much. At this point his supporters - people of good faith who voted for social change in the country - should give up in the face of the evidence: the leader's problems are incurable.

"Lie after lie, every day. Let's see if Felipe Calderon has the strength to withstand it. Let's hope so. The fate of the Republic is at stake," the columnist concludes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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