Suppose that Al Gore had rejected the Supreme Court’s ruling, called on Democrats to occupy the Washington Mall for six weeks, and had himself sworn in on January 1, 2001, pledging to run an alternative government and “at all costs” to stop George W. Bush from taking office on the appointed day, January 20.
The fact that none of this came to pass attests to the strength of American institutions and to the integrity of our political leadership. Change the names, dates, and places, however, and we have what’s now happening in Mexico. Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lost an extremely close race in July, blamed the outcome on electoral chicanery, and staged massive, protracted sit-ins in the center of Mexico City to press for a full ballot recount. His claims refuted and his demands rejected, Lopez Obrador (also known by his very pronounceable initials, AMLO) refused to accept the electoral court’s final ruling and, on November 20 — eleven days before his opponent’s official inauguration — swore himself in as Mexico’s “legitimate president.”
For five months AMLO has nurtured a sense of grievance among his loyalists in the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), alleging irregularities in the voting process and in other election procedures that he says enabled his opponent, Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), to edge him out in the tightest presidential race in the country’s history. He calls Mexico a “sham republic” and Calderon a “spurious” president, “imposed” on the Mexican people by corrupt officials.
AMLO and his followers have adopted an increasingly threatening tone toward Mexico’s nascent democracy, which emerged only in the last decade after 60 years of virtual one-party rule by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), now a third but still potent political force. “To accept the current regime’s rules,” said AMLO in his inaugural address at the Zocalo, the historic plaza in the center of Mexico City, “is to betray the Mexican people.”
According to the Associated Press, some of Lopez Obrador’s closest aides have suggested they will follow Bolivia’s example and try to use protests to force Calderon from office. Like the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, AMLO pledges to build a “new republic” founded on government control of natural resources and intensified redistribution programs. Significantly, the PRD candidate, who choreographed his own inauguration ceremony, chose to have the audience serenaded by the Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez, darling of Havana’s music collectives.
THE IRONY OF LOPEZ OBRADOR’S claims of fraud is that they are themselves fraudulent. Starting on the very night of the election, AMLO has issued a steady barrage of charges, each of which has been proven false or groundless, only to be replaced by further and more ludicrous allegations. Yet incessant repetition of such assertions about nonexistent shenanigans has kept his supporters in sustained angry mode, undermining confidence in the country’s democratic institutions among broad swaths of Mexican society.
* Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) offered a “quick count” of randomly selected precincts (a sample approved by all the parties) for the benefit of results-hungry citizens. As it became clear on election night that the race was too close to call, the IFE announced a “statistical tie” and declined to name a winner. Nonetheless, Lopez Obrador took to the microphones to say exit polls gave him a 500,000 vote lead, then proclaimed himself the winner and demanded that “our results” be respected, otherwise “I will defend the people’s interest.”
The Mexico City polling firm Prospecta Consulting subsequently reviewed 14 exit polls conducted on election day. Calderon led in 11 of these; AMLO, in just two. Only three of the 14 surveys had results outside the margin of error, and of those only one showed the PRD candidate ahead. Thus AMLO’s claim of victory based on exit polling was highly selective.
* As the official results came in, AMLO was ahead early in the count, only to be overtaken by Calderon shortly after 4 A.M. — contributing to the perception that the results were somehow fixed. But it turned out that PRD pollwatchers and activists in states known to lean to the PAN had used delaying tactics (such as disrupting the vote count and even attempting to take over voting places) to slow down the reports coming in from those states. This stretched out the time AMLO remained nominally in the lead.
* Lopez Obrador later claimed that an “algorithm” in the vote counting program was rigged to give Calderon the edge. In fact the algorithm was the same one we find in pocket calculators, as the computer program merely added up the figures reported on the vote tally sheets delivered to all political parties.
* On July 10, Lopez Obrador called a press conference to show video footage of what he said was clear evidence of ballot-stuffing by a poll worker. A review of the tape by the IFE, however, shows that the worker simply transferred votes for the Mexican Congress that had mistakenly been put in the box for president. (In Mexico, voters are given separate ballots and ballot boxes for each election in play.) As revealed the following day by the PRD’s pollwatcher at the precinct, the ballots were moved by the local elections chairman with the consent of pollwatchers and fully in their view. AMLO suggested she might have been bought off.
*Undeterred by these embarrassments, Lopez Obrador called a further press conference to accuse the IFE of illegally opening warehouses where electoral materials were being stored, allegedly to “make the figures work out” for Calderon. An IFE advisor explained that the warehouses were opened at the PRD’s own request so they could investigate the party’s claims of voting irregularities.
* Having failed to prove actual vote fraud, AMLO questioned the fairness of campaign advertising. He bitterly complained of his main rival’s spending for TV spots. The electoral institute provided figures showing that Lopez Obrador’s coalition actually spent more on TV spots, and aired more of them, than did Calderon. AMLO even claimed that a juice company commercial was meant to send voters “subliminal messages” favoring his opponent, because the ad’s background matched the PAN’s color scheme.
As the allegations mounted, AMLO called on his supporters to engage in “civil resistance,” occupying the Zocalo and blocking highways and city streets to press for a full recount as the only way to remove all doubt as to the outcome. “Vote by vote, precinct by precinct!” they chanted for 47 days.
The demand was disingenuous. Mexican law allows the unsealing of electoral materials only where there is evidence of tampering or other irregularities in a particular precinct, not on a wholesale basis. As pointed out by numerous observers, unsealing ballots and records in precincts where there was no specific complaint would have invalidated the results from those precincts (a provision intended precisely to prevent tampering with election materials), leading to annulment of the whole election and requiring that a new one be held.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?