By RICARDO CASTILLO
Monday morning blues and indignation? You bet.
Definitely for two independent presidential hopefuls, it was a weekend full of electoral turmoil. Their candidacies were rejected by the National Electoral Institute’s (INE) Committee of Prerogatives and Political Parties, which last Friday decided that pre-candidates Jaime Rodríguez Calderón and Armando Ríos Piter did not meet the minimum of signatures required to become an independent candidate. Only former First Lady Margarita Zavala made the grade.
The reason for rejecting the two pre-candidates was the use of fake electoral cards in which apparently black market salesmen used original cards to register over 1.5 million signatures to back up their candidacies. By the time the committee ended up investigating and checking out the fake cards, neither Rodríguez nor Ríos could come up with the 866,868 signatures needed to get registered.
Reaction from the two pre-candidates was immediate. First of all, the committee – without actually using the term cheaters – accused them of cheating. which sent both pre-candidates — nicknamed “El Bronco” and “The Jaguar,” respectively — into fits of indignation and fury because they both claim to have played cleanly and fairly.
Also, this being Mexico, where distrust for institutions is rampant, the INE officials were immediately accused of acting as “servants” to the “party-cracy” (as the nine official parties are known), which puts the INE officials in dire straits since they still have to explain exactly what happened and who is to blame because altering electoral identification cards is a federal crime that carries with it from three to six years in the slammer.
Both “El Bronco” and “The Jaguar” were immediately granted the right of appeal and they have until this coming Wednesday to try to reverse the already-taken decision of leaving them out of the ballot sheets.
Deliberations will continue until March 29, when the INE will hold a final session to approve the candidates which will contend for the presidency of Mexico.
Over the weekend, up-until-then pre-candidates Andrés Manuel López Obrador and José Antonio Meade were officially granted the registrations, along with Margarita Zavala. Still to register is Ricardo Anaya and, if nothing changes, up until March 29, it will definitely be a four-way election.
The ghost of incompetence now lies with the INE officials, as does a swirl of questions. First of all, why did they admit and not immediately detect the fake cards since Rodríguez had six out of every 10 submitted voter support statements cancelled, while in Ríos’ case the committee last Friday announced that it was cancelling 90 percent of the signatures.
The pre-candidates got their signatures through an electronic scanning system, and in the case of Margarita Zavala, she too showed nearly 400 fake signatures of support, but still she had a final tally of more than 870,000 signatures, 3,500 signatures more than she needed to award her the right to be on the ballot.
The question that first arose regarding INE was: How did the “black market” crooks manage to get official data regarding voter identities in as many as 21 states across the Mexican republic? There is no answer, but the INE stands accused of having sold the general voter listing to private companies, including banks and phone businesses – there’s no proof, only an accusation.
INE President Lorenzo Córdova once more denied that the INE “had sold” the voters’ list which would be a crime in and of itself. In fact, the existence of the fake cards with correct data on them was announced, but it was not until the INE rejected their candidacies that both El Bronco and The Jaguar learned about it.
Now, the two ousted hopefuls will be filing suits. El Bronco says that he will file an impugnation with the Electoral Tribunal, which will have the final say in this case come March 29, while The Jaguar is crying foul, an interference to the INE and Margarita Zavala’s husband, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, suggesting that he will demand a “signature by signature” recount.
Ríos claims that that the INE is not only closely associated with Calderón, but also with President Enrique Peña Nieto, both of whom allegedly (Ríos said it, not me) want to strengthen Margarita Zavala’s candidacy in order to snatch votes from Ricardo Anaya. Both Zavala and Anaya have been in a rift within the National Action Party and Ms. Zavala decided to resign to 32 years of militancy last September only because Anaya beat her to the official pre-candidacy. The “useful vote” Zavala will definitely snatch away from Anaya will only help – or so they say – Jose Antonio Meade’s floundering candidacy.
But for Monday blues entertainment in Mexican politics, both El Bronco and The Jaguar are unhappily “dancing the Mexican Hat Dance,” kicking the ground both in rage and frustration because they claim their dignity has been trampled on by the INE, which now has to respond accordingly and with evidence in hand.
That’s not all folks, there’s a lot more to come even before Mexico’s own brand of March Madness comes to an end!