In view of the large amount of attention yesterday’s post on the potential for vote buying in the 2012 Mexican presidential election has received, we are very pleased to have a second follow up post-election report on this election from Marco A. Morales, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Politics at New York University, that addresses more directly the question of the potential for and consequences of electoral fraud in this election. In addition to his graduate work in political science, Morales has also served as a public official under both PRI and PAN administrations, most recently – under the current PAN administration – as Press Counsellor and Spokesman for the Mission of Mexico to the United Nations, and Director General for Political Analysis at the Office of the Mexican Presidency. The official tally for the Mexican presidential election has now been released. After all votes have been counted (and recounted whenever there were discrepancies in the tallies) the results advanced by the PREP and the expedite count remain virtually unchanged: PRI’s Peña Nieto has38.21% of the vote, PRD’s López Obrador 31.59%, and Vázquez Mota 25.41% of the vote. This means that a difference of over 3.3 million votes between the front-runner and the second place remains virtually unchanged. (Or in other words, that there was human error on the vote counts, but no systematic error). Yet, for outside observers, this could seem like a convoluted process taking an exceptional amount of time. And that would be a correct observation. Nevertheless, that is what the electoral law dictates. So what exactly is going on, and why?
A bit of Mexican electoral history could provide some necessary context. Decades of one-party dominance supported by tampering with the vote created a plethora of allegories for common electoral practices that seem drawn from Magical Realism literature: the “crazy mouse” (ratón loco), where voters run around “like crazy” trying to find the booth where they should vote until they quit tired from never finding the right place; the “carrousel”, whereby groups of voters cast a ballot in different voting booths along a pre-set route; the “tamale” (tamal), whereby a voter stacks the booth with votes that he had previously brought with him; the “pregnant ballot boxes” (urnas embarazadas); whereby the ballot boxes are brought to the polling station already stuffed with votes for one candidates; the “shoe ballot boxes” (casillas zapato), ballot boxes where all votes are cast for one candidate; the “shaved-off voters” (votantes rasurados), whereby partisan of the opposing parties are eliminated from the list of voters; and all these allegories are perpetrated by “racoons” (mapaches), electoral “alchemists” who tamper with the votes in order to get the desired outcomes.
With these precedents, it is no surprise that recent Mexican electoral history is characterized by attempts to foster trust in electoral outcomes, primarily by coping with three main forms of electoral fraud: controlling who votes, tampering with the vote count, and vote buying.