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MEXICO: The Elections

David Crow gives us a first-hand report on the elections:

"As an invitee of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), I was privileged to witness an electoral process that I think is fair to describe as nearly exemplary. In the polling site I was at, the safeguards developed by the IFE made vote fraud impossible (although there are still problems prior to elections of vote buying and conditioning receipt of public benefits on a PRI victory). Furthermore, polling officials and party representatives were well trained and the elections ran their course in an almost jovial atmosphere characterized by cooperation among the parties. There were incidents of inter-party violence in some places, but these were isolated and can't be considered to have affected the overall quality of the elections nor the trustworthiness of the results.

Mexico City was exultant Sunday night, almost as if Mexico had won the World Cup, with electors waving PAN banners and honking horns throughout the city's major thoroughfares. Even PRD voters who had said they preferred a Labastida victory to Fox's winning were jubilant at the PRI's exit from power.

The big winner, of course, was the PAN. Not even the most ardent Fox supporters expected a victory by such a big margin (nine percent). Furthermore, the PAN is now the first plurality in both chambers of the Congress, followed by the PRI and the PRD in a distant third place. Although PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won by a narrower margin than expected in the Federal District, the party no longer has a majority in the local Legislative Assembly and won only 10 of 16 local political districts ("delegaciones"), whereas it expected a steamroller victory in the D.F. Thus, the big winner was the PAN, the big loser the PRI, while the PRD lost significant ground. Naturally, the true victor was the Mexican people.

I must disagree with Mr. Whelan's reservations concerning Fox. His attitude up till now has been conciliatory and statesmanlike (as has that of all candidates). The formation of legislative coalitions will be a riveting aspect of Mexican politics, since Fox heads a minority government. Also, the PAN does have a fairly clear, consistent ideological profile (free market, pro-business, pro-Church), but Fox has been something of a maverick vis-a-vis his party; there is quite a bit of distance between Fox and the PAN, which could complicate matters of governance (filling cabinet spots, reaching agreements with his legislative faction). All in all, however, there is reason to believe that consensus could emerge on some issues such as fiscal reform (one of the first matters Fox addressed in interviews Sunday evening), decentralization, combatting corruption, etc. In short, I am optimistic regarding Mexico's future."

Ronald Hilton - 7/04/00