July 3, 2006

Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won...

Hatched by Dafydd

...But nobody is in a position to say for sure yet.

We're talking about the critical Mexican election yesterday, of course; both the mostly-capitalist candidate Felipe Calderón, of the National Action Party of Vicente Fox, and the Socialist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, claim to have won (has any political party whose name contains any variant of the word "revolution" ever done anybody any good?), and the election is too close to call via the cursory count Sunday night.

But look at the difference in what the candidates themselves say:

Lopez Obrador said late Sunday that he would respect the delay in declaring a winner, "but I want the Mexican people to know that our figures show we won...."

Calderon spoke minutes later, saying he too will respect the results -- but that the official preliminary results, as well as the exit polls, show that he's the winner.

Now, anything can happen; and I suspect Mexico is a lot less rigorous about their polling (and possibly their counting) than even we are. But it's very, very rare that when both the exit polling and also the preliminary count show one person winning, the other person ends up winning instead with the final count.

Of those two, the exit polling is the weakest reed; but it is a completely separate measure than the preliminary count. If both point to Calderon (and not even López Obrador disputes this), I have a hard time believing that both will be proven wrong. It's not unheard of, but it's very unlikely.

In a longer AP story, we get some actual figures:

Preliminary results posted by the electoral institute showed that, with 44 percent of polling stations counted, Calderon had 38 percent, Lopez Obrador 36 percent and Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party with 19 percent. Those results were tallied at polling stations, and had yet to be certified....

Exit polls indicated National Action did well in three governors races - Morelos, Guanajuato and Jalisco - while Marcelo Ebrard of Lopez Obrador's party easily won the Mexico City mayor's post.

As for Congress - key to determining whether the next president will be able to push through reforms - none of the parties received a majority. Two exit polls, both with a 1.5 percent margin of error, gave National Action 35 percent, Democratic Revolution 31 percent and the PRI 28 percent of the lower house of Congress.

Obviously, nothing is set in stone; but a 2% lead is good to carry into more detailed counting... and it's not as small as originally intimated (not within 1%). It's also not a good sign for a candidate when the only polls he can cite to show he's ahead are those conducted by his own campaign.

This election plays as a mirror of American politics. According to the New York Times:

Mr. Calderón, 43, said he would create jobs through securing more private investment and by cutting taxes. Mr. López Obrador, 52, said he would spend $20 billion on social programs and public works to jump-start the economy.

It's Bush vs. Gore! And another cliff-biter!

So keep your fingers crossed, and let Mexico get on with the counting.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 3, 2006, at the time of 1:53 AM

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» "Democratic" López Obrador Threatens Revolution If He Loses from Big Lizards
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) edged away from "democratic" and closer to "revolution" today as Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in a throwback to the days before there was democracy in Mexican elections, vowed street action if he is... [Read More]

Tracked on July 4, 2006 12:24 PM

» Felipe Calderón Wins from Big Lizards
As Big Lizards first predicted in Teleblogging 2: I Think Calderón Has Won..., conservative Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) of Vicente Fox has been officially declared the winner of the Mexican election: The ruling party's Felipe C... [Read More]

Tracked on July 6, 2006 4:40 PM

» Mexico Headed for Civil War? from Big Lizards
(And if they are -- think of the refugees!) This AP story builds upon the increasingly violent antics and agitation of losing leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the "Democratic" Revolution Party (not enough Democratic, too... [Read More]

Tracked on September 1, 2006 10:08 PM


The following hissed in response by: Infidel

I'd much rather see Mexicans staying homne and prospering grandly than abandoning their homes to jump the border and be comparatively destitute. Far better for the US AND for Mexico that Mexico abandon their history of feifdoms and socialism and become prosperous in their own right. Far better that they improve their own country than to bring manual labor and the worst apects of their culture up here.

The above hissed in response by: Infidel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2006 7:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


Last night was truly appalling

First an IFE (Federal Election Institute) spokesman addressed the nation and told everyone the election was too close to call, that everyone needs to wait for final vote counts and, most importantly, urged the candidates not to claim victory until the final verdict is in. Then President Fox went on the air and said essentially the same thing.

Immediately thereafter, AMLO (as Lopez Obrador is known in acronym-happy Mexico) was on TV addressing the party faithful, telling them his figures showed him 500,000 votes ahead and that he wouldn’t allow anyone to steal this victory from him. (I’m tempted to put parts of the preceding in quotes, but as you know, a proper translation is nearly always a paraphrase, rather than a true quotation.) In a country with such a long and storied history of election shenanigans, such talk is clearly and specifically designed to inflame.

Calderón then spoke to his followers and quoted the results of several polls that showed him ahead but told everyone to wait for the IFE to compile the final totals.

AMLO then went out into the Zócalo, Mexico City’s gigantic central square, and repeated his inflammatory remarks in front of who-knows-how-many thousands of followers, as well as a national TV audience.

I’m tempted to say something about how the left is always … But no, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2006 8:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Major Mike

I think it would have been better in the long run if the Socialists had won. Calderon will try his best, but basically continue the policies that just let the Mexicans "muddle through" as long as the United States gives them a safety valve through illegal immigration. Nothing significant will improve, and the current mess will continue in perpetuity.
If Obrador won, things would go to Hell in a hurry, and the Mexicans would revolt and finally make some basic changes. With the manifest failures of Socialism lying all about, Mexico would finally be ready for capitalism and democracy. Economic growth would soon lead to abundance and prosperity for all, in a nation favored in every way - natural resources, climate, fertile land, tourist attractions - but political leadership.
Or maybe not.

The above hissed in response by: Major Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2006 9:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Major Mike:

If Obrador won, things would go to Hell in a hurry, and the Mexicans would revolt and finally make some basic changes.

You mean like a basic change of address northwards?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2006 9:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

Major Mike-

I prefer Calderón, but I don’t think that under AMLO (Lopez Obrador) "things would go to Hell in a hurry". After all, AMLO was PRI (the dinosaur party) until he broke away and joined the PRD a few years ago. Government was corrupt under the PRI, but they did run the country (in a manner of speaking) for over 70 years. As a former PRIista, AMLO’s not likely to be like Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales -- although he almost certainly will court their friendship, and, for the benefit of his base, he will try to sound like them.

The main issue as far as I’m concerned is that the new president will once again not be PRI. It’s hard to describe the hold the PRI had on Mexico. People were absolutely stunned when outgoing President Zedillo (a PRIista) declared, on the night of the last presidential election, that the PRI had lost and the PAN candidate (Fox) had won. They were convinced that, given a chance, the PRI would steal the election. There literally was dancing in the streets -- even by people who didn‘t like Fox.

Whoever wins this election, Mexicans will learn that the last 6 years were not a fluke -- life goes on, and the country will muddle through without the PRI in power. If AMLO wins, 6 years from now they will be able to look back at 12 years of first (relatively) conservative government followed by liberal rule. They may finally conclude that they really do live in a democracy (OK, republic) in which their votes really do count. That, I would submit, is a very good thing that bodes well for the future of Mexican politics.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2006 11:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: Major Mike

Mexico is like a druggie, an alcoholic. No one can cure the druggie or alcoholic but themselves. And to cure themselves, they have to want the cure, which usually means they have to hit rock bottom first before they want to go into recovery. That’s not going to happen as long as the Mexican government does a half-assed job of running the country, and the United States gives Mexicans a way to escape their misery. As it now stands, the government of Mexico owes its continued existence to illegal immigration and the remittances illegal immigrants send back to Mexico.

Dafydd,almost twenty percent of Mexicans are already in the United States, and their remittances in total roughly equal the value of Mexico’s largest export, oil. With the output of Mexican oil fields declining steadily, and the economy of the United States booming, where does that leave the Mexicans? In misery, or in America?

There's more here

The above hissed in response by: Major Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 4, 2006 5:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

Major Mike-

You put your finger on it in your blog. The biggest obstacle to progress in Mexico is corruption. Unfortunately, no one can wave a magic wand and instantly put an end to a culture of corruption that has existed for as long as anyone can remember.

I use the phrase “culture of corruption” because the expectation and acceptance of corruption permeates all of Mexican society. A common example: If a cop stops you for a traffic violation in Mexico, you don’t mail your fine in to the city; you don’t pay at the local police station; you settle the issue right on the spot -- you pay the cop a mordida (literally “bite”), a bribe, and he goes happily away. “Terrible” you say, and I agree. Unfortunately, the mordida is built in to the law enforcement system.

Police in Mexico are horrendously underpaid. It’s impossible to support a family on a cop’s salary. They are expected to demand and receive bribes to supplement their income. A cynic might say this system is really more efficient than ours: Our police salaries are also partly paid for with traffic fines, but a significant part of the cash goes for administration of the system -- clerks to collect and deposit the money, postage and paperwork to communicate with motorists, and a system to follow up on delinquent fines. None of these costs apply in Mexico. By paying fines directly to the cops, they cut out all the overhead. Unfortunately, a byproduct of the Mexican system is lack of respect -- contempt, really -- for police.

Do you need a driver’s license, license plates, marriage license, or liquor license? Is your inbound inventory held up in customs? Do you need a building permit? Just about any transaction that requires the approval or acquiescence of a government employee usually requires a bribe. In Mexico, you grease palms to grease the skids. If you refuse to pay, you may experience extended, unexplained delays, possibly of infinite duration. And it does no good to complain to the miscreant’s supervisor (see below).

Now, if the problem were only with low-level employees who have routine contact with the public, one could just lay down the law, adjust salaries to compensate for lost bribe income and fire those who refuse to cooperate.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When someone is promoted to supervise the lowest level employees, the corruption is magnified. The higher the rank, the greater the opportunity for graft. For police, it could range from protection money from storekeepers to kickbacks from suppliers of weapons, ammunition, cars, uniforms, you name it. It goes all the way to the very top of the hierarchy, where officials can become very wealthy from under the table payments. (Just how was it decided that the police chief’s brother-in-law got the contract for the new headquarters building?)

How to eliminate such top-to-bottom corruption? It’s not easy. The middle and upper level employees make more money than they could reasonably expect to receive as salary in an honest system. There’s also a feeling of entitlement -- “I paid my dues while my boss was getting rich, so now it’s my turn.” Everyone expects a bigger piece of the pie when they are promoted.

Clean government at the top is essential. I think most people believe President Fox is a relative straight shooter -- he was already wealthy before he became first Governor of Guanajuato and then President. But as the first non-PRI president in decades, he had to deal with the PRI-created government apparatus with very little cooperation from Congress.

Will a new president be able to end corruption in Mexican government? Not a chance. Will he be able to start down the road to reform? I hope so, but it will really be hard.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 4, 2006 11:45 PM

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