Mexico’s Presidential Election

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The Mexican presidential election has been held, with an apparent razor-thin victory for one candidate. Roberto Sanchez, former state of Sonora representative for Arizona, talks to José Cárdenas about how Mexico ‘s election system works.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas:
The latest in the Mexico presidential election. A winner has been decided, but allegations of election fraud have marked the beginning of the legal challenge by the opponent. An in-depth look at the politics involved with Mexico 's election system and what is expected to happen next.

José Cárdenas:
And one of the most prominent international legal minds in the country is at Arizona State University . He's a law professor at the ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of law. We'll introduce you to Orde Kittrie. That's next on "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas:
Last week Mexican election officials said that Felipe Calderon of the national action part, known as p.a.n., had been declared the winner in the presidential collection. Calderon beat opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the democratic revolution party, known as p.r.d., by less than 244,000 votes in the July 2nd election, or a margin of just .6%. Lopez Obrador contended some of his votes weren't counted or were voided without reason. Legal challenges were built into the election process in recent years, to help ensure clean elections, so Calderon can't be declared president-elect until the electoral court weighs allegations of fraud or unfair campaign practices. With us tonight to talk about the electoral court system and what is happening now is Roberto Sanchez. He is the former state of Sonora representative for Arizona . Also here is Jorge de los Santos . He is the US Mexico affairs advisor for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, he is also director of the pan-American initiative office at ASU welcome to "Horizonte." let's start with you, Roberto. Give us a quick update of the vote tally and I think perhaps we should clarify exactly there has been a declaration of --

Roberto Sanchez:
No, no declaration yet of an official winner. On July 5 when the district started to get counted, there was a ballot saying this is the majority, the five candidates, this is their votes. For instances, we have for Felipe Calderon, out of 71 million people that went out to vote, 42 million people voted, 58%. Of those 58%, 15 million 284,000 votes went to Felipe Calderon. 35% -- 35.89%. 14,756,000 votes went to Lopez Obrador. We also have 9,301,000 votes that went for Roberto Madraso--

José Cárdenas:
Representative of --

Roberto Sanchez:
Of the P.r.i.

José Cárdenas:
The former ruling party of Mexico .

Roberto Sanchez:
Yes. In association with the green party.

José Cárdenas:
So what happened on July 5 was the Federal Electoral institute announced the vote results based upon their count to that date.

Roberto Sanchez:
That's the only -- that body, that's the only thing they can do.

José Cárdenas:
It's not a declaration --

Roberto Sanchez:
It's not a declaration.

José Cárdenas:
When will we have that?

Roberto Sanchez:
The law says we can have it all the way up to august 31, September 6. You can discuss -- you can bring any type of discussion all the way up to August 31.

José Cárdenas:
And who makes the determination of the winner?

Roberto Sanchez:
The federal courts. The federal electoral courts. This other body that is composed by seven judges.

José Cárdenas:
And Jorge, that's the court that will decide or rule on the challenges that Lopez Obrador has brought. Am I right?

Jorge de los Santos:
Exactly. And they'll declare the next winner of the election.

José Cárdenas:
And what are the challenges? Just give us --

Jorge de los Santos:
There's actually lot of challenges. We have vote techniques, support from elected officials, vote coordination, we have also ballot stuffing, and the list goes on and on and on.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand it, there are only 50,000 votes that have been challenged by Lopez Obrador, which even if they went natural his favor wouldn't change the results of the election.

Jorge de los Santos:
Well, it didn't change the votes of the election. If you change three votes in the ballot box right now and you mulitiply that by 50,000 --

José Cárdenas:
So 50,000 votes is 50,000 ballot boxes?

Jorge de los Santos:
Exactly. And those ones have hundreds and hundreds of votes, and they even found out some ballot boxes that have vote tallies for about 100 votes in favor of the p.r.d.

José Cárdenas:
This is based upon, what, a preliminary analysis of Lopez Obrador group?

Jorge de los Santos:
Yes. And we have evidence of these things. They have videos, they show on TV--

José Cárdenas:
Videos of what?

Jorge de los Santos:
Of people stuffing some of these ballot boxes.

José Cárdenas:
And you mentioned involvement by elected officials.

Jorge de los Santos:
There's a long history of the president of Mexico being involved in the electoral process, and also from -- we have evidence also that there's governors and mayors involved in this. They illegally provided support and logistics help --

José Cárdenas:
Such as?

Jorge de los Santos:
For example, they gave buses, for example, so they can pick up people and vote. What happened is in northern Mexico a lot of the governors negotiated with for the p.r.d. negotiated with the p.a.n., in order to support him and win the election. A lot of them were the same franchise and not happy with their own candidate, so necessity negotiated with Calderon so they can get somebody they like.

José Cárdenas:
Roberto, there was a briefing on the record briefing, the Council of Foreign Affairs that I heard, and a number of points were made, and I want to bounce some of those off you guys as we go through this session. One of them was that the north elected one person and the south elected another. Can you elaborate on that?

Roberto Sanchez:
It's divided. The north is the prosper and the south is the poor. And the south elected one person and the north elected a different president. How the system is divided, it's been that you should -- usually the north is the wealthiest people, businessmen, entrepreneur people. In the -- tend to go more towards the right. The south is more workers, masses, and they tend go more towards the left, more towards the populous.

José Cárdenas:
You're from a northern state, but your allegiances in this election were with the p.r.d.

Roberto Sanchez:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
can you tell us, what Calderon's response to the allegations of fraud have been made by Lopez Obrador?

Roberto Sanchez:
Well, the allegations, what he is saying he wants to have a fair ballot. He wants to have open, and let's count vote by vote and I'll prove to you that I won fair and square.

José Cárdenas:
Calderon is calling for a vote by vote --

Roberto Sanchez:
I'm sorry. Lopez Obrador is calling for a vote by vote. Calderon is saying this is what the results, let's believe in our system, this is the system we have, and we already have the results. And let's move on.

José Cárdenas:
Jorge, another point that was made in this briefing was that the Mexican election is Florida 2000 on steroids. What are your thoughts on that?

Jorge de los Santos:
It's very similar. The American public waited for a month, a little more than a month to find out who the next president of the United States was going to be. And what is going to happen in Mexico , the Mexicans are going to wait for about two months to find out who the next president of Mexico is going to be. That good news for Mexico , there's a court and the court is going to decide which allegations are true, and which things are false. And there's enough evidence to overturn the election or not.

José Cárdenas:
And will Lopez Obrador abide by the determination of the courts?

Jorge de los Santos:
Yes. Actually, that would be the last resort that he has. Right now he has evidence that he leads the election right now.

José Cárdenas:
Are you confident, are you predicting the election will be at least the vote count as it stands now will flip in favor of --

Jorge de los Santos:
It may flip, but it will be up to the courts to decide where there's enough burden of proof, enough evidence to change the election.

José Cárdenas:
Roberto, let's talk more about kind of the demographics of the election and what happened. Some other points that were made at this briefing were that you had more of a young vote for Calderon reflecting perhaps more of a confidence in a market economy, and that the elderly or the older voters voted for Lopez Obrador in higher numbers because of their maybe missing the benefits they got from the pre, when the pre ran the country. What's your reaction?

Roberto Sanchez:
What happened is, Lopez Obrador, when he was mayor of Mexico city , he raise the pensions to the elder. So he got back and he said, let me do what the p.r.i. wasn't doing. So he started to get a lot of votes and help. The young people went out and -- they were students of private schools, and students of private schools were more in Monterey , and Sonora , and in the north where they're wealthier. So the young, wealthy people came out and voted, not the young -- the people from Mexico city were not the ones voting. Not young people from how can I say, from public schools.

José Cárdenas:
And the suggestion Jorge has been that the allegations from Calderon, the suggestion that Obrador would be fiscally irresponsible were part of what generated fears, so some of these votes weren't necessarily pro-Calderon, but anti-Obrador.

Jorge de los Santos:
There was a whole campaign -- this election was very tough. First you have TV ads with the flat-out lies against one or the other, even the Mexican institute of law -- outlawed some of the ads because they were too tough.

José Cárdenas:
The observation was you had American style campaigning.

Jorge de los Santos:
Actually, I think it got even tougher in some cases. And you have politicians; you have companies, nonprofits, all of them trying to sway public attention. And they were trying to convince people to vote in favor or against a candidate. So it was a really tough election. It was a battle. And what happened eventually is that a lot of people are not happy with the result of the election, and some people believe that there were not fair in the way they actually conducted the election. And that's why they have all these allegations right now.

José Cárdenas:
Will they actually be checking into some of the campaign tactics? Would that be a basis for changing the vote?

Jorge de los Santos:
You have that the electoral tribunal and the Supreme Court. So you have two different courts there, and what that campaign team right now is to actually target both of them and see which one will try to favor -- to change some of the results.

José Cárdenas:
So is action being taken before the Mexican supreme court as we speak, or is that down the road?

Jorge de los Santos:
As we speak.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand it, involvement by the Mexican supreme court in Mexican elections is very rare, and I understand the last time was 1946.

Jorge de los Santos:
Exactly.

José Cárdenas:
So what are the odds they'll do anything --

Jorge de los Santos:
They got involved in the United States , so they may get involved in Mexico .

Roberto Sanchez:
This body -- federal tribune court, that was the reason they brought this. In 1990 for the first time, before 1990, the elections were being held by the secretary of state. That was the body that would put together the election. For it now to be fraud in 1990 they declared, let's bring two institutions. And one of them is going to be the one that puts everything together and says, ok, this is the requirements for you to be a candidate. This are the ballots. This is what we're going to have. All that work is done by -- they're the ones that tell you how the whole voting process was going to be. Then you had -- they were going to be the ones that were going to be the ones qualifying. The first one is composed by nine members that have -- the other nine parties right now in Mexico also are part but they only have voice, they don't have a vote. There's only nine people very important. Those people get named by the president of Mexico , he's the one that nominates them. And they did, and the federal congress gets to appoint them.

José Cárdenas:
I understand they were all either upon or free people.

Roberto Sanchez:
On the other side you have the seven judges, also get appointed and nominated by the president of Mexico , and the same process. But those have to be not only by congress, but by the senate.

José Cárdenas:
Are you suggesting that they will make the decision and it will be respected by the Mexican people?

Roberto Sanchez:
It has to be. And that's how it got to be, and for the first time they're going to empower them to be able to make that decision. They have never qualified. This is their second elections they qualify. The first election was six years ago with Fox. So we've got system since 1990 but they haven't been able to qualify it. Why, because the margins were too big to spread so it was a very obvious election.

José Cárdenas:
But in this one, Jorge, in addition to some of the suggestion about bias, there have been allegations about the head of the -- may -- is that being made a basis for the challenges?

Jorge de los Santos:
Yes, that's a challenge they're putting together right now. They're trying actually to press criminal charges against the head, because he has ties with both the p.r.i. and the p.a.n. but they're considering it, but probably they won't do it. What is important here is that really what Lopez Obrador is proposing is just to count all the votes, to count the votes, Mexico has a long history of fraud, everybody remembers the 1988 election, the left leaning candidate was allegedly robbed from victory. And the vote by vote count probably will bring a lot of transparency.

José Cárdenas:
Is there really going to be a vote by vote count?

Jorge de los Santos:
If the tribunal decides we should have a vote by vote.

Roberto Sanchez:
And it should. There's 130,000 precincts in the whole country, and 300 districts. Out of those -- we already mentioned, 50,000 are being challenged. Let's say you don't count those 50,000, but at least half a percentage that would make enough number -- open them up. If you don't find absolutely nothing in it, let it go and say, Lopez Obrador, you lost. But if you did find something --

José Cárdenas:
We've only got a couple minutes left and I want to talk about what a Lopez Obrador presidency would look like versus a Felipe Calderon. The suggestion is that many respects Calderon would continue the policies of Fox, though perhaps not as vigorously. What's your assessment of that?

Roberto Sanchez:
I really believe he will. He will continue the same policy Fox is saying, he right now they tend to -- they're going to try to bring some registration to Mexico , but it's going to be more of the abroad. Let's continue the same policy, let me defend the Mexicans abroad. Let me see how I can do this other challenges.

José Cárdenas:
It's also been said that because he has the votes in congress, he'll have an easier time than Fox did, but at the same time because it's such a close election and because he will be beholden to a number of different interests that swung the election for him as they did, he's not going to be as vigorous or as adventurous in making significant changes he might otherwise be. Do you agree with that?

Roberto Sanchez:
Absolutely. You don't want to have 25 million people that voted against you trying to follow you and to really believe what it is your policy that you did. So for Calderon to be able to be a good election, he should allow -- let's say if he has nothing to hide --

José Cárdenas:
You think that would strengthen his hand.

Roberto Sanchez:
Yeah. If he wins, then he would have the credibility of the people, and I believe the congress would be able to more really help him and let's see what type of foreign policy you want to bring, or what kind of economic development you want to do for Mexico .

José Cárdenas:
Jorge, we've got about a minute. What would we expect to see from a Lopez Obrador presidency?

Jorge de los Santos :
I think that whomever wins the elections you'll see that that person will have about 65% of Mexicans who voted against that candidate. So Lopez Obrador will try to build a coalition, and he would like to bring people from the p.r.i and from the p.a.n., and the p.r.d. has experienced negotiating, they were negotiating with Lopez Obrador, who was mayor of Mexico city . He had an opposition congress and he actually built a lot of infrastructure projects. He worked with businessmen, but there's no other way for him but to negotiate, and he becomes elected --

José Cárdenas:
And relationships with the united states, how different would they be than with Calderon?

Jorge de los Santos :
There's a difference here with how he wants to establish his relation with the united states . He mentioned several times he will like to take the ideal of Juarez , which is that we would like to have our relationship of respect, and also will try to avoid public diplomacy. One of the issues with Fox is they make a lot of public statements how they want to improve, how they want to do change the American opinion, but what's happening right now, that was not successful with Fox --

José Cárdenas:
Forgive me, but we're out of time. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte."

Roberto Sanchez:
Thank you very much.

José Cárdenas:
Immigration, human rights, and the environment are issues that reach across international borders. To deal with those matters, colleges across the country are realizing international law must be incorporated into their curricula. One of the country's most reputable international law specialist is at Arizona state university. Nadine Arroyo introduces us to associate professor Orde Felix Kittrie.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
What are these restrictions being placed by new governments on the force that's supposed to keep the peace in the Congo--

Nadine Arroyo:
Foreign policy debate is not confined to Washington DC . Today international issues are discussed on college campuses nationwide. And Arizona State University proudly calls one of the country's most prestigious educators in the area of international policy one of its own. Orde Felix Kittrie is an associate professor of law at ASU his teachings range from criminal law and international negotiations to Middle East law.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
My interest in international relations and foreign policy goes back in part to growing up in the united states, the son of Mexican American woman, we often went back to Mexico to visit my mom's family, and I was intrigued by the difference between the two countries, between their two cultures, between their stories and their views of the history of relations between the united states and Mexico.

Nadine Arroyo:
Kittrie has a long list of accomplishments. He served 11 years at the US department of state. And to his credit, he successfully worked on economic aid to Pakistan following September 11th. On the reform of Jordanian business law. And negotiated the world's first multilateral agreement to combat crime in cyberspace. Orde Kittrie is a law professor who has not only traveled the globe, but also has negotiated with and for the world, specifically in the area of nuclear nonproliferation.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
I negotiated five nuclear nonproliferation agreements between the United States and Russia over the course of 16 trips to Moscow . That was very satisfying. I was sent as part of a team to negotiate agreements under which the United States helped the Russians to better protect the nuclear materials and to employ the scientists on peaceful research.

Nadine Arroyo:
His efforts have not gone unrecognized. In 2006, he was named one of the 15 most prominent Hispanic faculty members among international legal experts by the magazine "Hispanic outlook in higher education." he also received several recognitions by ASU, among them, the centennial professorship award for excellency in teaching in and outside the classroom. He also received the faculty award from the ASU Chicano faculty staff association for exemplary work in research, mentorship, and leadership.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
It's nice to be recognized as a top Latino law professor, because I'm very proud of my Latino heritage, and also because my Latino heritage in considerable measure inspired my interest in foreign policy and international law.

Nadine Arroyo:
He says his experiences are not just about making the world a better place today, but for the future.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
One of the things I'm excited to do here at ASU is to help inspire my students to make the most out of their talents and to try and make a difference in the world the way I've tried to do. And I do that partly by incorporating current events and other real world case studies into my classes. I also help the students in terms of mentoring, sponsoring externships, and by teaching them the sorts of practical real world negotiating skills and legislative advocacy skills that I wish I had learned when I was in college and in law school. These skills that are really useful for making a difference that aren't so much taught at universities that it took me a time to figure out on my own.

Nadine Arroyo:
He says avoiding both conventional and nuclear war as well as immigration reform, and international business development, are important in foreign policy idiosyncrasies. And now more than ever international law plays an integral part in how policies are negotiated.

Orde Felix Kittrie:
So often in the past legal scholars have looked at, ok, what set of words can you get both sides to agree upon? But in my view it's more than that. It's a question of, what set of words can you get both sides to agree upon that they will continue to abide by? So that is what we've been looking at in the class. Each of the students is focused on a different conflict or different type of conflict, and we're looking at what is work -- what has worked and what has not worked in terms of peace agreements. And we're working closely with the group of law professors that I'm involved with, the public international law and policy group, that advises countries on peace negotiations. So my students' research is going to feed directly into the advice given by experts to actual countries. I very much like to do that. I like to have my students right write payers that are as practically oriented as possible. Not only practically oriented, but that can actually make a difference in advancing the world's knowledge of the issue, and make a difference in solving a real world problem.

José Cárdenas:
If would you like to see a transcript of tonight's show or get information about upcoming topics, please visit our website at www.azPBS.org. Once you get to our home page, click on "Horizonte" for more details.

José Cárdenas:
That's our show for tonight. We hope you will join us next Thursday. I'm José Cárdenas. For all of us here at "Horizonte," have a good evening.

Roberto Sanchez: Former state of Sonora representative for Arizona;

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