When US voters consider electoral fraud, George W. Bush’s questionable victory in Florida in 2000 is the paradigm of a stolen election. But here the reference point is the presidential election of 1988 when, on election night, government officials announced that the “system has fallen,” alluding to the alleged crash of vote-tabulating computers. When the “system” came back up after a ten-day ellipse, Harvard-educated neo-liberal and fair-trader Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the candidate of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was declared the winner over leftist Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Few believed the results and hundreds of Cárdenas supporters were killed in the political violence and street protests that followed.
On Monday, the Mexican electoral system did not collapse–it simply went to sleep. In a dramatic pronouncement near midnight, Federal Electoral Institute President Luis Carlos Ugalde called the preliminary count too close to call and declared that no further results would be available until Wednesday at the earliest–and perhaps for many weeks to come.
Under the PRI’s seven-decade reign, the period between election day and the official declaration of a winner–always a member of the PRI–was utilized to cook the final results. Now under the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and with outgoing president Vicente Fox calling the shots, the abuse of state power is once again evident.
Sunday’s presidential balloting was perhaps the most consequential election since the 1910 Mexican revolution. Felipe Calderón, Fox’s would-be successor, stands with the fat cats. His leftist opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often referred to by his initials AMLO, is an unabashed champion of the poor. Calderón is a fervent believer in neo-liberal globalization and advances policies that would deepen Mexico’s political and economic servility to Washington.
Lopez Obrador is demanding renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and seeks to strengthen Mexico’s ties to Latin America where leftists in various shades now govern much of the continent–a scenario that Washington has sought to avoid at all cost. Lopez Obrador is perhaps more ideologically aligned with Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, a free-market “socialist”, than he is with Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chávez, as Calderón and the PAN have often charged.