Mexico: Protests as right claims poll win despite fraud
The final official results in Mexico's July 1 presidential election were published in the early hours of July 4, claiming Enrique Pena Nieto had won. However, his victory had been proclaimed within just a few hours of the voting centres being closed and 1% of the ballots counted.
Pena Nieto, the candidate from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was declared the winner with a 6.5% margin over progressive candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
A member of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Lopez Obrador is a former Mexico City mayor and presidential candidate in 2006, when his victory was prevented by electoral fraud.
This time, Lopez Obrador's supporters, as well as an important part of Mexican civil society organised mainly through the #Yo Soy 132 movement, have documented and reported electoral irregularities.
These include widespread vote buying, destruction of ballots, early closure of voting centres in municipalities where the progressive party had a clear majority, ballot stuffing, discrepancies between the results published at ballot centres and the official tally, intimidation and even the assassination of Morena and PRD representatives.
Lopez Obrador's campaign coordinator in the state of Nuevo Leon was among those assassinated.
In the poll, about 74.5 million Mexicans, out of a population of more than 100 million, were eligible to vote. With an unprecedented participation of about 60% of the electoral roll, and with only 1% of the votes accounted for, the centre-right Pena Nieto was proclaimed the winner by the main media outlets.
The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), supposedly a civil society institution that has repeatedly shown its complicity with powerful groups such as the PRI, also declared Pena Nieto the winner with more than 38% of the vote. Lopez Obrador's official result was nearly 32%.
In recent years, Mexico has suffered the consequences of the so-called war on drugs led by President Felipe Calderon, from the ultra-conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Tijuana's paper Zeta said it is estimated that more than 60,000 people (the official figure is 35,000), mainly civilian, had been killed during the past five years of the war.
In this context of fear and violence, millions of Mexicans went to the polls opposing the current government and calling for an alternative. PAN's candidate received only about 25% of the vote.
The highly monopolised Mexican media played an important role in defining this election. Political commentator Denisse Dresser highlighted the role of the two major TV outlets in “creating” Pena Nieto as a candidate by granting him a pervasive presence in the news and presenting him more as a character from a soap opera than a politician.
The media highlighted Pena Nieto's marriage to a Mexican TV actress, his youthful looks and called him “the Latin American response to David Beckham”. An analysis of how Pena Nieto governed the state of Mexico was ignored.
The Miguel Agustin Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre has reported how Pena Nieto, as State of Mexico governor, was responsible for violent repression in San Salvador Atenco in 2006. In this infamous incident, more than 2000 armed members of the state security forces atttacked the unarmed civil population, resulting in 47 women being brutally tortured, many of who were sexually abused, and a young boy was killed.
None of the officers who gave or carried out the orders for the repression have been prosecuted.
During Pena Nieto's government, the criminalisation of human rights advocacy has risen, as well as the incarceration rate for young people.
The state of Mexico is the state that presents the highest rate of assassination of women and some of the lowest education levels nationwide. However, this information was never presented in the media.
Media outlets gave Pena Nieto 31% of the total coverage granted to the four presidential candidates. Lopez Obrador received 25%, much of which was a scare campaign — countered by social media and social movements without access to mainstream media.
For several months leading up to the elections, the PRI candidate was portrayed as having up to an 18% lead in the polls, making him an indisputable winner. According to official data, Lopez Obrador was coming third.
As votes were counted, Lopez Obrador, civil society and the grassroots pro-democracy movement #YoSoy 132 began reporting examples of irregularities in more than 110,000 polling places (about 80% of the total polling centres) and called for a total recount of the votes.
More and more evidence about the inaccuracy of the official tally is being collected and published on various websites. Evidence of about 700 million pesos ($51 million) being used to directly buy votes has been presented.
The IFE, during an extraordinary session that went until the early morning of July 4, refused a total recount, due to the fact the official difference in the results between Pena Nieto and Lopez Obrador was more than one percentage point.
However, the IFE president recognised that irregularities in vote tallies might eventually lead to the re-counting of votes from as many as 50,000 polling stations — about a third of the 143,000 involved in the vote.
As ballots were being counted and tallied electronically, making evident the many mistakes being shown in real time by social media, #Yo Soy 132 called for rallies, boycotts and demonstrations to reject the self-proclaimed president Pena Neito.
Protests took place in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on July 8 to coincide with the July 7 action in Mexico.