Towards the Democratic National Convention

Yesterday, the federal electoral tribunal, charged by the Constitution to ensure transparency, equity, and certainty in the presidential elections, refused the full recount of the votes and rejected — almost entirely — the appeal made by the Coalición.

Oblivious to the nation’s long history of electoral fraud and institutional failure, insensitive to the evident misuse of the government to support Calderón, unmoved by a difference of less than 1 percent between the two main candidates, arguing narrowly, exhibiting a puny legalistic mentality unworthy of a high court vested with ample constitutional powers, the tribunal ruled to subtract 81,080 votes from Calderón’s last IFE count — and 76,897 from López Obrador — thus downgrading the official difference between the two main candidates from 402,708 to 398,525 votes, without any detailed account explaining the rational behind these figures.  Yet… yet… they found no reason to order a full recount!

Article 39 of the Mexican constitution stipulates that

Essentially and ultimately, the sovereignty of the nation lies in the people. All public power emanates from the people and it is instituted for the benefit of the people. The people has at all times the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of its government.

These are the robust legal grounds upon which Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the coalition that supported his candidacy are convoking a National Democrtic Convention to be held on September 16, 2006 at Mexico City’s Zócalo Plaza. López Obrador is calling the people to defy the ruling and regard it as enabling a technical coup d’etat. And he is not alone. In spite of the hysterical media campaign against the actions of civil resistance, millions of Mexicans are convinced that a fraud was committed and will view Calderón as a spurious president.

Betraying the expectations of the perpetrators of the fraud, the democratic movement is not showing any sign of exhaustion. On the contrary, there’s a steady collective determination to take this struggle to its final conclusion. It’s a struggle for democracy, where democracy — beyond casting a ballot once every six years, democracy as effective participation in the decisions that shape public life — is viewed as the vehicle to renovate Mexico’s polity, correct the country’s horrendous social inequality and end poverty, protect the nation’s commons, and fight corruption and privileges. The Convention will decide how to best accomplish these goals under the scenario of a spurious presidency.

The depth and scope of the Convention’s powers will depend on its legitimacy. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of all Mexicans. The establishment — the government, the emerging PAN-PRI conservative coalition, the elite business organizations, the media, the Catholic hierarchy, and the army’s top command — will demand that the ruling by the electoral tribunal, and the eventual declaration of Calderón as president elect, be taken as the end of history. Following the steps of Carlos Salinas, another spurious president, they’ll seek to provide Calderón with the coveted legitimacy the polls denied him by staging spectacular coups (Salinas jailed a corrupt union leader a few days after his inauguration), seeking to exploit differences within the movement, buying international support, and trying to obtain with charity the consent of the working poor.

But the people in the movement are in a position to preempt all this trickery. The people in the movement have the moral high ground. The rest will depend on their ability to keep themselves and their leaders honest, to use the experience as an opportunity to learn from one another and from their adversaries, to strengthen their organization and unity every step of the way. Unity, unity, unity!


5 Responses to “Towards the Democratic National Convention”

  1. Seth de l'Isle Says:

    Hello panchovilla,

    In case you don’t follow znet, there’s a pretty good article there, “Standoff at the Zocalo”:

  2. Charles Says:

    Some points that I made on MercuryRising:

    Now, some back of the envelope calculations are in order. To give a sense of the magnitude, 237,000 votes in a 9% recount would correspond to about 2.5 million votes if extrapolated over the nation.

    It’s huge.

    Or, to provide scale, roughly 6-7% of the precincts were so corrupted that the results were impossible to accept.

    Who among us would not call this a deeply flawed election?

    But when one looks more closely at these details, there is clearly something very wrong. The challenged precincts were almost all Calderon strongholds. They were NOT overcounting ballots for Lopez Obrador.

    So, how did the relative change in votes come out so small?

    Small but, even so, too large. A 5,200 vote shift is uncomfortably large on a recount of roughly 3.5 million votes. Perhaps the closest parallel we have is the Washington State governor’s race of 2004. Out of 2.75 million ballots cast, a change of only 1,667 was found on recounting.

    But the net shift was miniscule: 171 votes, or about 6 votes in 100,000. This is reasonable.

    A shift of 5,200 votes on 3.5 million, by contrast, is a shift of 1.5 votes per thousand. That is indicative of fraud.

  3. panchovilla Says:

    Thanks Set and Charles.

    Charles: Have you taken a look at this document?

    Let me summarize it: Out of the 11K tallies recounted, 7.5K had either more or less ballots than they should have had. We’re talking about 120K votes altogether. Multiply that times 11.

    According to the first ruling of the electoral tribunal, this kind of discrepancy was prima facie evidence of an “irregularity.” By law, an irregular tally was to be discarded.

    If the TRIFE had followed the law and its own ruling, then these tallies would have been voided and AMLO would have won by — under the most conservative assumptions — over 1 million votes.

    As far as I’m concerned, the argument on the fraud is settled.  There was a fraud.  The way I look at it, if they couldn’t demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Calderón won, then he lost.  ***Politically***, from the point of view of regular Mexicans, the burden of the proof was on Calderón.  Or, as statisticians say, the “null hypothesis” was that there was fraud.  That’s what the TRIFE was supposed to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.  It failed to do so.

    We now need to think on what to do next.

  4. Charles Says:

    I’m aware of the general allegations as in the link you provided, PV. But the situation is a little more complicated than the PRD has outlined, and they have in my opinion done a very poor job of communicating.

    The only public source for the specific, precinct-by-precinct allegations of which I am aware is the database created by the PRD. That data shows discrepancies between, for example, “ballots received” and “ballots voted + ballots surplus.” Step one would be obtaining independent verification of that data.

    The next step is looking into the allegations precinct by precinct. There are very often innocuous discrepancies in poll data. For example, suppose that some voters walk out of a polling place without completing the ballot. This might happen if, for example, lines are long. If they walk out after having signed in but before having received a ballot, then there would be more voters than votes. If they receive a ballot before signing in, and walk out with the ballot, ballots appear to be missing. In a well-organized polling place, neither of these should happen. Still, if they did happen, they would be indications of sloppiness, not fraud.

    A very common problem is that people fail to sign in, generating what are called phantom votes. A Miami-Dade citizens’s group recently did a study and were able to establish that the overwhelming number of phantom votes were due to poll worker error, not to fraud. See here and here. But there were still a lot of unexplained votes in Miami, probably indicative of fraud.

    Investigating issues like these are what the TEPFJ is supposed to do. By failing to publish any detailed explanation– even a partial and anecdotal one– they have created suspicion. I can’t even tell whether they have looked at the issue of ballots outside of sealed packets.

    There’s a third step. When one deals with very large numbers, statistics is able to tease out information that one wouldn’t imagine. So, the third step before any court ruling should be a looksee by good and impartial statisticians. I don’t see any indication that’s been done.

    The media, with the exception of La Jornada and Proceso, have also done an execrable job. It’s not enough to say, well, there were only minor discrepancies. As the PRD points out, a vote or two per precinct discrepancy is enough to swing the election. So, the media needed to be explaining exactly what the recounts were showing.

    As for the TEPFJ ruling, at least as reported by Reforma and El Universal, it’s (pardon my French) crap. No one should accept this wildly implausible result without seeing the detailed calculations on which it is based.

    As several commentators have said, more eloquently than I, the law exists to serve humanity. Humanity does not exist to serve the law. So, when rulings of dubious validity emerge, no matter how closely they may technically adhere to the law, they undercut the foundations of society and no one has an obligation to respect them.

  5. Charles Says:

    PV, check this post here.

    The guy claims that, basically, they used a protocol that guaranteed that only precincts where the vote was close would be annulled. In precincts where Calderon won, the fraudulent vote would have had to be larger than the margin of victory to get it annulled.

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