Politics: Elections and Democracy in Question

MEXICO - Report 21 Jun 2017 by Guillermo Valdes and Esteban Manteca

Opposition parties and candidates are mounting legal challenges to the official vote counts in two of the June 4 gubernatorial elections (Coahuila and the State of Mexico), in a pattern that has become all too predictable in Mexico for decades, in which there is often extensive documentation of widespread electoral fraud and yet the evidence almost never sways electoral authorities or the courts to move against the offenders, much less order new elections.

At this point it appears unlikely that challenges to the PRI’s victory in State of Mexico will prosper, but a stronger case has been mounted in Coahuila, where a broad front of opposition parties and independent candidates has introduced detailed dossiers to back its claims. Moreover, the news media has provided evidence of campaign spending by the incumbent party far in excess of legal limits, as well as vote buying, and tampering with ballot boxes.

Should the electoral authorities and courts turn a deaf ear to the plaintiffs, it will send a clear message that electoral impunity remains alive and well, and encourage the political parties, especially the PRI, to act in the same way going forward.
But there is an unavoidable price to be paid by this ongoing cycle: the incumbent party holds on to office with a serious legitimacy deficit at the same time as the credibility of institutions responsible for organizing and certifying elections is badly eroded, thereby undercutting public trust in the system of electoral democracy as a whole.

This process further exacerbates the political crisis in which the country has been submersed for more than two years, thereby further hollowing out citizens' trust of practically all the country’s political institutions and worsening the environment in which the 2018 presidential elections will take place.

With three major candidates expected to seriously compete next year it becomes even more likely that those who fall short in the official tally could challenge the election outcome. In such a situation the electoral authorities’ credibility, or lack there of, could greatly magnify the complications of a close final vote. The result would be a presidential administration hamstrung by perhaps having no more than as little as 33% of the vote.

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