As Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s demands for a vote-by-vote recount in the tarnished July 2 presidential election here was being rejected by Mexico’s top electoral tribunal (known as “the TRIFE”) last Saturday, thousands of his supporters huddled around hand-held radios in the forty-seven encampments they have set up on crowded Mexico City streets, listening intently to the proceedings. Others gathered in the great Zocalo plaza or were posted outside the TRIFE headquarters in the south of the city. Everywhere, their mood was as dark as the incessant downpours that have drilled down on the makeshift camps for days. Some sobbed, others beat on the bars of the TRIFE gate in frustration. “If there is no solution, there will be a revolution!” shouted 73-year-old farmer Ponciano Aguirre from Puebla state as the seven-judge panel pronounced its reasons for rejection on the big screen that had been hung in the Zocalo.
“Voto por Voto!” had been the battle cry of this amazing month-long civil resistance of los de abajo–those from down below–and now the seven justices had wrecked their slender hopes. The tribunal is the court of last resort, and there is no appeal.
The election, which the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) awarded to the conservative Felipe Calderón by a razor-thin 243,000 votes out of nearly 42 million cast, featured two highly dubious computer counts, manipulation of manual vote tallies and their transmission to the IFE, which also badly bungled the announcement of the results. In their case for a vote-by-vote recount, López Obrador’s legal team submitted evidence of miscounts in 73,000 of the nation’s 130,000 casillas, or polling stations in addition to charges of pre-election inequities by the IFE that favored Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN), and the unconstitutional interference of President Vicente Fox, a member of the PAN, in the electoral process. In turning down López Obrador’s petition, the judges cited a technical failure by his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) to file individual complaints in each challenged polling place.
Nonetheless, the TRIFE softened the blow by ordering a partial vote-by-vote recount in nearly 12,000 casillas (9.7 percent of the total vote). The recount begins August 9 and lasts through August 13 under the strict supervision of electoral judges. The votes will be tabulated by IFE technicians, raising doubts about the legitimacy of the new tally. Most of the recounts will be in states that heavily favored Calderón, who could see his lead shrivel to nothing if the process favors his opponent. With 4 million votes hanging in the balance, López Obrador has to pick up twenty votes (or Calderón has to lose twenty) in each of the contested casillas to tie the race. Moreover, if the recount demonstrates that fraud was afoot in the July 2 balloting, the TRIFE could order a wider recount–or even declare the election annulled.