Mexico´s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) began the day with a salute and honors to the Mexican flag before the start of an extraordinary session. Mexicans across the country began voting at 8:00 am. If all goes according to plan, the country will have a president-elect by night´s end along with 500 new deputies and senators, six governors and a fresh body of mayors and city councilmen. A total of 2,127 newly elected officials will take office between September 1 and December 1.
Close to 99 percent of all polling stations are operational and no incidents have been reported to election authorities. Army and Marine elements are patrolling the streets to maintain order and peace in several states where organized crime may pose problems for voters or seek to corrupt the vote counting reporting process. These include the border states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas and the Gulf state of Veracruz where dozens of headless bodies have been found in recent months.
Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) was the first to vote. Dressed in her party´s emblematic blue, she told reporters she was especially proud to be voting together with her three daughters who were voting for the very first time. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) voted in the southern county of Coyoacan shortly after 9:00 am. He told reporters he was optimistic about today´s poll. Gabriel Quadri of the PANAL party voted shortly before 10:30 central time. He left the polling station to head to the gym to relieve stress before tonight´s official vote count begins. Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was seen leaving his wife´s home in the exclusive Palmas neighborhood in Mexico City. Peña Nieto and wife later arrived with their six children to vote in Atlacomulco in the state of Mexico. The vote itself was a rerun of the campaign with voters posing for pictures and women kissing the candidate during and after Peña Nieto´s vote.
National and state polling suggest the PRI will have a strong showing across the nation, except in Mexico City where the PRD is sure to win the mayor´s seat. The PRI already controls 22 of the nation´s governorships and is close to winning additional state seats in Chiapas, Yucatán, Jalisco, and Morelos. The PAN may score victories in Guanajuato and the PRD in AMLO´s birth state of Tabasco.
The logistics for today´s vote are a result of an incredible undertaking for federal, state and municipal authorities. Some 145,000 polling stations are servicing 79.5 million voters across 300 districts. Behind the effort are thousands of soldiers, federal, state, and municipal police officers who are patrolling streets and assisting the elderly, sick and disabled to vote. Three million polling station volunteers are serving as polling station presidents, secretaries, validators, alternates and political party representatives.
Sixty-three nations (including Cameroon, Libya, Taiwan, and Ethiopia) are also serving as election observers—by far the largest number of countries ever registered for a national election in Mexico. Student movement #YoSoy132 is reported to have thousands of informal observers on the ground as are a number of civil society organizations throughout Mexico who registered formally with the IFE.
Stay tuned. Voting will continue throughout the day until the last polling stations close in Baja California at 8:00 pm (Mexico City)/9:00 pm (Eastern).
*Juan Manuel Henao is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He is a consultant based in Mexico City and former Mexico Country Director for the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington DC-based not-for-profit democracy promotion organization.