Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More on Mexico: Democracy Doesn't Have A Time Limit

I'm hoping to go through this in more detail when I have another sleepless night, but for now, I think it's worth highlighting the Greg Palast interview on Democracy Now this morning. Personally, I'm generally not fond of jumping into the fray of other countries' practices "willy-nilly". But since President Bush was so eager to congratulate Calderon, being one of the first leaders to do so, my stink detector just won't let up. Some highlights...
GREG PALAST: On a computer printout, Dr. Romero showed how the official tallies matched the exit polls, with challenger Lopez Obrador ahead by 2% all night. That is, until the very end, when several precincts came in for the ruling party by 10-to-1, and then 100-to-1, putting their candidate Felipe Calderon over the top, literally in the last minutes. The doctor found that statistically improbable.

VICTOR ROMERO [from Mexico's National University]: We reached the point I said, “It’s over.” But then, from 71% ‘til the very end, there was not a single moment in which the difference from one report to the next became bigger.

GREG PALAST: So it didn't change at all. Just was perfect.

VICTOR ROMERO: Perfect, perfect. And so we just couldn't believe it. I mean, it fell -- with 5% to go, it fell one full point.
OK, this is fishy, but not necessarily an indictment--I'd still like to verify this myself. But when you compound this with exit polls showing AMLO (the PRD candidate) winning and a supposed video (that I'm trying to track down) showing ballot stuffing, there is a little more to this. Also, I find this astonishing:
The rush to announce a winner was all the more surprising given the wave of other reported irregularities. This is Cesar Yanez who directed the campaign for Lopez Obrador’s party, the PRD. He noted there were 300,000 fewer votes for president than for senator, a drop-off that voting experts say never happens without fraud. Yanez guessed maybe they ate their votes.
I find it really hard to believe that a lower ticket race would have more votes than the top ticket, but it is still not conclusive. I find this most damning:
The Federal Election Commission's rush to announce a winner caught my attention because of the astonishingly high pile of supposedly uncountable votes: nearly one million blank unreadable ballots, four times the alleged margin of victory. The smell of Florida was unmistakable. In the 2000 U.S. election, Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris stopped a hand count of 179,000 supposedly blank ballots. Mexico's Electoral Commission, taking the exact same stance as Harris, is refusing to have a public hand count of those supposedly blank one million ballots.

Yanez noted that the commission agreed to open a fragment of 1% of the ballot packets. In most cases, ballots that were totaled as blank were, in fact, votes for Obrador. Each box opened produced enough newfound votes for Obrador that opening all the boxes should statistically change the outcome of the election. But all the boxes won't be opened. The ruling party, the PAN, and the Electoral Commission refuse a full public recount, and the government says that it's over.
There is no excuse not to have a full recount for a race this close. In the 2004 presidential election, the results didn't seem close so I had no problem without a recount (and revised exit polls corraborated the results).

In Washington state's '04 gubernatorial race, there was an automatic recount due to the closeness of the race. This makes sense because statistically, such narrow margins could be within the noise of counting statistics (though that argument may not be justified in this case, haven't done the math). But when you have nearly one million "blank votes", the need for a recount is all the more necessary.

Hopefully I can delve into this more soon and find some other reports that verify Palast's claims. But, since George Bush is always talking about how Democracy is "on the march", it would be nice if we were to ensure that Democracy is actually taking place amongst are allies. Plus, there is no excuse to prevent a full recount. As one of the commenters says, "Democracy doesn't have a time limit."

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