Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Must read on Mexico

James K Galbraith lays out some pretty persuasive evidence that the Mexican election was stolen, and the Bush regime couldn't be happier that democracy is thwartwed right next door.

Two weeks have now passed since the presidential vote in Mexico, pitting Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the party for a Democratic Revolution (PRD) against Felipe Calderón of the ruling National Action party (PAN). The candidate who trailed, López Obrador, has explicitly charged that the count was cooked. He has challenged the result in court. No final resolution is due before September.

Yet the stalwarts of democracy outside Mexico are silent. Bush has congratulated Calderón, not waiting for the court to rule. Reuters and Bloomberg echo the confidence of the elites that Calderón will win in court - never mind whether he won at the polls. When The New York Times is heard from, the headlines tell us of the "leftist claims" about the occurrence of fraud, while Calderón is described as "presidential." The Times never doubted that fraud did occur in Ukraine. In Mexico on the other hand, it seemingly renounces any duty to examine the facts on the ground.

Here's one difference between the two situations. In Ukraine, it was extremely hard to learn exactly what the evidence of fraudulence actually was. In Mexico, it is extremely easy. That is because the Mexican electoral authority, known as IFE, posted the ongoing count on its website in real time, an initiative called PREP. Independent scholars kept a record of PREP as the night progressed. A statistical analysis of that record does not, of course, constitute proof. But it brings to mind Henry David Thoreau's remark that circumstantial evidence can be very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

To begin with, a simple matter. According to an article by Roberto González Amador in La Jornada, the vote totals don't match the percentages reported. Given the just over 15m votes Calderón was said to have earned, the percentage reported for him, 35.89%, could only be obtained by including invalid ballots in the total reported. If, on the other hand, one takes the overall vote total and the percentage reported for Calderón as correct, then his total vote must have been substantially less than was reported.

The same is true for AMLO and the other candidates, and there is a total shortfall of over a million votes between what can be justified by the official percentages of the valid votes, and the sum of votes reported. The discrepancy proves nothing, but even if it is only a simple error, it certainly seems to cast doubt over the competence of the count.

Let's turn to the harder stuff. An analysis by the physicist Luis Mochán of UNAM based on the realtime evolution of the vote count and the distribution of vote totals by polling place can be found here, and in greater detail in Spanish, here. It's not easy reading, but is immensely worthwhile. It's possible that Mochán's work inaugurates a new era in realtime checking for vote fraud, made possible by the simplicity of Mexico's first-past-the-post direct vote and the rich electoral data sets that can be made instantly available. Call it the age of transparency, in collision with an oligarchy of thugs.

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