Mexican electoral authorities said yesterday they would recount votes cast at more than half of the polling places in Sunday’s presidential election, following inconsistencies in vote tallies and allegations of vote-buying.
Edmundo Jacobo, executive secretary of Mexico’s Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute—IFE), said that ballots from 78,012 of the 143,000 ballot boxes used in Sunday’s vote (54.5 percent) will be opened and the votes recounted. In addition, 61.3 percent of the votes for Senate seats and 60.3 percent of votes for seats in the lower house of Congress will also be recounted, said Jacobo.
The recount began early in the day yesterday, and electoral officials expect it, as well as the final overall count on the presidential vote, to be complete by Sunday. They do not expect it to significantly alter the preliminary outcome of the results, in which Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Revolutionary Institutional Party—PRI) won 38.15 percent of the votes, and runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD) secured 31.64 percent of the votes.
Mexico’s electoral law states that votes should be recounted in the following instances: inconsistencies in the final vote tallying reports; a difference of one percentage point or less between the first- and second-place finishers; or all the votes in a ballot box in favor of the same candidate. López Obrador has demanded a complete recount and not yet accepted the preliminary vote tallies, saying his team detected irregularities at 113,855 polling stations.
There have also been allegations of vote-buying, including an accusation by the incumbent Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN) that Peña Nieto’s campaign acquired 9,500 pre-paid gift cards worth 71 million pesos ($5.2 million) at supermarket chain Soriana to give away in exchange for votes. An investigation is currently underway.
In the midst of Mexico’s presidential election and the heated debate on who is the best candidate, we are reminded of the myopic and paternalistic view citizens still have of this emerging democracy. It is not uncommon to hear people saying they will vote for a candidate because he/she “is the one that will put an end to poverty” (or some other priority development issue) as if the responsibility and power to do so lies solely in an ever-powerful and almighty political leader.
My intention is not to undermine the role government plays in paving the way for development and growth through policies that promote and attract investment and catalyze job creation and opportunities for economic transformation. But the fact is that our political leaders cannot and will not do it alone. For this reason, it is comforting to learn that MIT’s Technology Review recently awarded and recognized 10 innovative young (under age 35) Mexican individuals whose ideas and creations provide a beacon of hope for the country’s future value development.
Mexico needs more people like José Manuel Aguilar from Monterrey, whose participation in developing procedures and a biotechnological platform to make H1N1 vaccines more readily available throughout the country helped stop an immeasurable amounts of deaths during the 2009 crisis. Or 31-year-old Ana Laborde, whose company has developed a patented bioplastic with 70 percent made from Agave waste (the plant used for Tequila manufacturing) and is 100 percent recyclable. Inventions like these are a challenge the country’s mentality of being a provider of raw materials with little added-value to industrialized nations.
Last weekend Mexican presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota officially launched her election campaign, as did the other two primary contenders, Enrique Peña Nieto and Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The media have focused on whether Peña Nieto can convince voters that he represents a new Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, the governing party for 70 years until the election of Vicente Fox in 2000), and if López Obrador (of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático—PRD) can make a comeback after narrowly losing the 2006 election. As for Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the incumbent Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), one central question has been whether she can become the country’s first female president.
The Vázquez Mota candidacy is a symbolic victory for feminists. Globally, women are disproportionately less represented in politics (making up only 17.2 percent of national legislatures), and only a handful of world leaders are women. Mexico in particular is known for a deeply-rooted culture of machismo, which pervades politics and business as much as it does society at large. Only 6 percent of Mexico’s mayors are women, although 25 percent of its national legislators are (thanks to a law that requires at least 40 percent of a party’s candidates to be women). No major company is led by a female CEO. Only one, Grupo Modelo, has a female board chair—and that because her father passed it on to her when he died without a male heir in 1995.
Vázquez Mota, in contrast, has risen to the candidacy on her own merits; the 51-year-old mother of three is a trained economist, former congresswoman and ex-cabinet minister (in each of the last two administrations). While Vázquez Mota has embraced her gender head-on since Day 1 (in accepting PAN’s official nomination, she declared, “I will be the first woman president of Mexico”), it remains to be seen whether the candidate of the socially conservative, Catholic PAN will campaign—and potentially govern—with a large focus on women’s issues.