24 March 2009

Irregularities abound in PRD race


The News

Allegations of improprieties in the primary elections of the nation’s biggest left-wing party continued being launched by aggrieved aspirants on Tuesday, despite attempts by the party president to minimize the impact and frequency of such incidents.

On Tuesday, videos surfaced on the Internet of burned ballots being discovered in the Coyoacán borough. The two warring Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, factions – the moderate New Left and more combative United Left – blamed each other.

In neighboring Álvaro Obregón, aspirants from New Left said that they would ask the electoral tribunal to annul the election due to irregularities such as ballot box theft and vote buying.

In the central Cuauhtémoc borough, candidate Marco Rascón alleged that one his rivals benefited from the participation of out-of-state voters bussed in to cast ballots, an inflated voters’ list and social-welfare recipients being threatened with the withdrawal of benefits by local government employees allied with other campaigns.

“The big struggle we have now is against illegality,” Rascón told reporters from his seafood restaurant in the Colonia Roma.

The inability to name quickly name winners and widespread allegations of irregularities risked once again plunging the PRD into internal disunity – in spite of a “civility pact” agreed upon prior to the elections by party leaders.

The party election last year for national party president left the PRD badly split and featured a hotly disputed contest between candidates from the New Left and United Left, who differed over tactics, strategy and loyalty to the anti-establishment positions called for by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. López Obrador calls himself the “legitimate president” and has rebuked some factions of the PRD for showing a willingness to work cooperatively with a federal government that he alleges stole the 2006 presidential election.

Rascón warned that the latest disagreements could further hurt the PRD’s electoral fortunes, especially in Mexico City, where the party has ruled since 1997, holds a majority in the local Assembly and governs all but a pair of the 16 boroughs.

“The internal conflicts are going to produce terrible inefficiencies in the upcoming elections,” said Rascón, who says that he is not affiliated with any of the factions and gained famed for previously darting around the city in wrestling tights as the social crusader, “Super Barrio.”

“These are very favorable conditions for the [National Action Party] and the [Institutional Revolutionary Party].”

The Sunday elections in Mexico City that were held to select nominees for 16 borough chief positions and the races for both the local Assembly and federal Chamber of Deputies, but the outcome is still unknown due to a failure of the computer program that was tabulating the votes. Party officials say that the results will be announced at Noon on Wednesday.

The Sunday primary elections were also held in the State of Mexico, Morelos and Zacatecas, but much of the focus was on Mexico City.

“There’s a lot at stake in Mexico City,” said Ilán Semo, political historian at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

“There’s such a large pool of votes.”

Semo said that many of the problems came from the PRD factions practicing patronage politics that involve the widespread distribution of giveaways known as “dispensas” to entice votes and them making large groups dependent on favors from unscrupulous operatives using government resources.

Indeed, three New Left operatives were detained in Cuauhtémoc for allegedly distributing dispensas. But Rascón turned much of his criticism toward René Bejarano, a political operative with sympathies for the United Left and who is said to wield enormous influence over the local PRD, despite having been tossed from the party in 2004 after being caught on film accepting money from a developer. He was never convicted of any crimes.

“Bejarano is the biggest elector we have in the PRD,” Rascón said.

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