24 August 2006

Is the Chiapas election another July 2?

The alliance Por el Bien de Todos (For the good of all, which includes the PRD, PT and Convergence) narrowly captured the Chiapas gubernatorial race last Sunday by a miniscule 2,405 votes, according to the preliminary vote count. (Around 94 percent of the ballots had been counted.) Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who left his tent in the Zocalo to campaign in the impoverished, but picturesque southern state, proudly crowed: "We stopped the right in Chiapas," and interpreted the result as a validation of his movement and its tactics.

Like many elections in Southern Mexico, stories of chicanery filtered out of Chiapas. Hurricane Stan victims - some of whome are still living in misery - supposedly were denied relief supplies unless they flashed a voter identification and promised to vote for one of the parties. Gifting despensas no doubt also occurred.

Due to alleged irregularities (no surprise there) the PRI denounced the election results. To thwart the PRD-led coalition, the PRI, PAN, New Alliance and Green Party forged a last-minute coalition, backing the PRI candidate. (Some two percent of the voters, however, still voted for PAN ...) PAN said it would also dispute the election, but wouldn't foment street protests.

While the results obviously look good for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the outcome could actually hurt his cause as PRD candidate Juan Sabines Guerrero shared little of Lopez Obrador's passion for street protests. Grupo Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento pointed out, "The election results in Chiapas could turn into a problem for an important part of the PRD."

Sabines, who was a part of the PRI until recently, said he wouldn't go along with Lopez Obrador's call for nationwide protests. He recently stated, "Chiapas deserves a climate of unity and reconciliation."

He also promised to recognize a Felipe Calderon victory, should the election tribunal declare the PAN candidate the winner.

"The problem with Sabines' attitude is that it could weaken Lopez Obrador's movement," Sarmiento wrote on Wednesday.

"The fact is that many people honestly believe there was fraud, but they consider it a strategic error to block the Zocalo and Paseo de la Reforma.

"Many PRD supporters clearly see the deterioration of their party's image due to Lopez Obrador's blockades."

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