This is an attempt to summarize what’s going on in Mexico at this very moment, and to rectify my own prior misunderstanding — which, I must say, was shared by many others in Mexico.
First, the “recount” began early on the day at the IFE headquarters on Avenida Revolución, southwestern Mexico City. But this is not the recount vote by vote, full or partial, for the whole country or parts of it, that López Obrador is demanding. No. This is the “recount” of the consolidated tallies at the electoral district level. So, the votes (the physical ballots) are in sealed packages and they have not been opened yet. None.
The PAN opposes any attempt to open them and they have been helped by the press (e.g. Reforma, El Universal, etc.) to present the position of the PRD as an extreme one, where they intransigently demand the opening of all the packages with the votes and a full recount vote by vote.
In the permanent session of congress this morning, representatives of the PRD tried to clarify that they were ready to open only the packages that at least one of the parties involved had reasonable doubts about. In any case, the press is presenting this “recount” as if it were the ultimate and definitive recount of the votes — and not as what it is, the double-checking of the consolidated tallies (one set of figures per polling place) at the electoral district level.
Second, the IFE began to announce the votes accrued by each candidate when about a third of the polling-place tallies (known in Spanish as “actas” or “sábanas,” literally spreadsheets) had the sums checked. At first, as I noted on this blog, López Obrador was ahead of Calderón by 3 percentage points. With each extra batch of polling-place tallies counted (district by district), this difference has been steadily shrinking. Moreover, the speed of the shrinkage has increased as more districts are reviewed.
As I type, almost 90% of the polling place tallies have been reviewed (reviewing or double-checking of the sum is perhaps a more adequate term than recounting, even with the quotation marks) and the IFE reports a López Obrador’s edge shrunk to 1.3%. According to El Universal, the PAN is complaining that the PRD has pushed the districts where the PAN has an advantage all the way to the end, thus suggesting that the speed of the shrinkage of López Obrador over Calderón is going to accelerate drastically — perhaps even reversing the ranking to wind up with Calderón back as the “winner.”
If this was intended, it is pure genius. The PRD has been saying all along that the votes need to be recounted — at least in cases where the PRD (or any other party with a complaint) can show a probable case that the results were rigged at the polling-place level. But the noise created by the process today, together with the impression that López Obrador was ahead all along… almost to the end, but not quite… is helping the PAN and their friends in the media create the impression that this is the recount.
But, again, this is not the recount López Obrador wants — and has strong reasons to demand. This is something that may only add some votes to the PRD. Considering the strong opposition of the PAN to opening the packages with the physical ballots, it seems to me that they feel they can still “win.” It’s not going to be easy to persuade people that the recount is still ahead. I’m not entirely sure, but dealing with Mexican elections, being suspicious is the default mode. So, I expect the media to insist that López Obrador had his chance, that the tallies were counted in a different order, that opening the packages and going vote by vote is a disproportionate demand given that López Obrador’s recount was already done, that this time he enjoyed a temporary and illusory lead… almost all along, but that once all tallies were double checked, district by district, he’s still the loser.
The people who voted for López Obrador will need to be extremely alert to counter this new trick. I expect those people to continue their fight. They are already mobilized, surrounding the IFE, protesting in different points in the country, etc. But things may get much harder from this point on.
Or maybe I’m just being paranoid and López Obrador will retain his lead.