Demand rises for recount in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute has declared Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) winner of the July 2 presidential election by the narrowest of margins. However, evidence is mounting that the election commission and Calderon’s party rigged the vote to ensure that he prevailed over his rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, candidate of the left-oriented Coalition for the Good of All.

Lopez Obrador has refused to concede the election.

According to the election commission, Calderon, the candidate favored by the Bush administration, received 15.3 million votes, while Lopez Obrador got 14.8 million. Roberto Madrazo, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, reportedly won 9.3 million votes. Two minor candidates shared the rest.

In the wake of reports of widespread voting irregularities, more than 500,000 people demonstrated in downtown Mexico City on July 8, demanding a recount. Similar actions took place in other cities. Members of Lopez Obrador’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, which is part of his electoral coalition, said irregularities had been reported at about 55,000 of the 130,000 polling places.

Some polling places had insufficient ballots and turned voters away. Meanwhile, piles of marked ballots, tally sheets and other election documents were discovered in landfill sites in the state of Mexico, Veracruz and Mexico City.

Widespread discrepancies in vote tallies were reported. Many polling places posted totals that didn’t match the figures used by election commission. Ballots are counted at each polling place and the results are posted for everyone to see. The ballots and tally sheets are then delivered to the Federal Electoral Institute.

Arturo Espinosa, 56, a researcher for the British Broadcasting Service’s Mexican office, said at his polling place, in District Venustiano Carranza, local officials said 1,800 persons had voted. However, he learned the next day that the federal commission reported only 1,000 had voted there, meaning 800 votes had gone missing.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution cited many cases where Lopez Obrador’s vote was higher than what the commission reported. In one electoral district in Veracruz, election commission computers reportedly removed 3,373 votes from Lopez Obrador’s tally and 4,000 from Roberto Madrazo’s.

According to Jesus Cantu, a former director of the electoral commission, “A high percentage of the electoral acts [results] — I’m talking about 50 percent or more — have some type of error.” He said at least half of the ballot boxes needed to be opened and the votes recounted.

Bolivar Huerta and Francisco Portillo of the physics and mathematics departments of the Autonomous University of Mexico said the election commission’s final vote count was achieved by “cybernetic fraud achieved by means of an algorithm.”

They said early in the day the commission’s computerized vote tally pegged Lopez Obrador and Calderon as jointly gathering 71 percent of the vote, a percentage that never changed as the day wore on. The share of the vote tally for the other candidates also remained fixed. “There is no logical explanation to justify this,” Huerta said.

They also noted that in the states where Lopez Obrador won, his vote percentage was always proportionately less than those of his running mates for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, whereas in states where Calderon won, his votes were always greater than the legislative candidates aligned with him. “For Lopez Obrador there was an algorithm that removed hundreds of thousands of votes, and another algorithm that moved to Calderon votes that he received in district counts.”

Analysts report other unusual occurrences. For example, on July 2 Calderon announced that he would win over Lopez Obrador by a margin of 0.6 percent. On July 6, the election commission said that Calderon won by a margin of 0.58 percent. How was Calderon able to guess his margin of victory so accurately?

Calderon’s brother-in-law, Diego Zavala, owns the company that supplied the software the commission used to compute the vote.

Charging numerous voting irregularities, Lopez Obrador and the Coalition for the Good of All, trade unions, farmers’ organizations and others are demanding that the Federal Electoral Institute recount all the votes. The commission is refusing to do so, maintaining that the elections and the vote count were fair. Calderon and his party, PAN, are backing the commission. PAN accuses Lopez Obrador of trying to annul a fair election.

On July 9 Lopez Obrador’s coalition asked Mexico’s federal electoral tribunal to order a recount of the presidential votes in Mexico’s 300 electoral districts. The tribunal has the power not only to declare a presidential winner but also to annul an election. It has until Aug. 22 to make a ruling.

Calderon has offered Lopez Obrador and the coalition various cabinet posts if they accept the results. They have declined Calderon’s offer.

The coalition is forming committees for the defense of the vote across the country to pressure the election commission and President Vicente Fox, whose mandate ends December 1, to recount the vote. More marches and rallies are planned.

Lopez Obrador’s coalition won the governorship and local legislative race in Mexico City, retaining the left’s hold on those offices.