Partial recount in Mexico reveals more fraud

MEXICO CITY — Strengthening popular demands for a vote recount to rule out election fraud, a partial recount ordered by Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal last week uncovered evidence of widespread irregularities.

The recount was the result of a legal challenge launched by the leftist coalition For the Good of All — composed of the Democratic Revolution Party, Workers Party and Convergence — which asked the judicial body to order a vote-by-vote recount of the July 2 election results. The tribunal ruled Aug. 5 that there was sufficient evidence of irregularities to recount votes in only 9.7 percent of polling places.

While the tribunal has not released any official results, some observers present at the recount reported that in the 11,839 (out of 130,000) polling places where it took place, judges discovered there were 49,000 more votes cast than there were people who actually voted; ballot boxes had illegally been opened; votes for coalition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had not been counted; and National Action Party (PAN) presidential candidate Felipe Calderon was credited with 14,847 more votes than he should have been.

In other cases the aggregate polling place vote totals were less than the numbers of ballots cast, the observers said.

On the other hand, PAN claimed the partial recount demonstrated few irregularities.

Obrador’s coalition maintains that the partial vote recount confirms the legitimacy of its demands that all votes be recounted to rule out fraud. The coalition vowed to continue with its campaign of peaceful disobedience to pressure authorities to recount the vote. The coalition also announced that it would be presenting evidence to the tribunal that electronic fraud also played a role in awarding Calderon a false victory.

Given the falsifications found, the coalition will also ask the tribunal to annul the 11,839 polling place vote totals that were counted. In these polls, Calderon won 1.8 million votes against 800,000 for Lopez Obrador. If the tribunal rules in favor of annulling the polls, and these votes are subtracted from each candidate, Lopez Obrador will be the winner.

On Aug. 21 the tribunal begins evaluating votes that were not clearly marked, with the goal of deciding who to award the votes to. The tribunal will also begin resolving disputes in the elections for the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The judicial body has until Sept. 6 to declare its final results.

However, some analysts doubt the Federal Electoral Tribunal’s ability to make an independent decision on the vote count. A source in Mexico’s intelligence services told the World in an interview that four of the seven judges on the tribunal “respond to the interests of Calderon.”

In addition, the government of President Vicente Fox was able to pressure the tribunal into not ordering a full vote recount, telling judges that their careers would go nowhere if they made the wrong decision. Six of the seven judges are set to retire from the tribunal next year, their terms coming to an end, said the source.

Calderon, the presidential candidate supported by the Bush administration, maintains that Lopez Obrador’s demand for a vote recount indicates that he does not respect the voters’ wishes and is trying to annul the elections.

On Aug. 14, the Mexican television network Televisa showed a video of officials from the Federal Electoral Institute illegally opening, altering and mixing up election materials in this city’s District 5 on July 11. The video has strengthened Lopez Obrador’s charges that illegal tampering with the vote took place.

Meanwhile, thousands of people remained camped out on streets in downtown Mexico City, their numbers growing daily. Farmers in nearby states are delivering food to the protesters.

Lopez Obrador’s supporters, in peaceful actions, continue to disrupt operations of large businesses that financially support PAN, which refuses to recount the vote. These businesses are also spending millions of dollars on television commercials arguing against a vote recount.