Calderon squeaks ahead for now

With most of the precinct-by-precinct count finished, the conservative candidate is now ahead by a mere 0.39%, according to La Jornada. Lopez Obrador (a.k.a. AMLO) held a press conference this morning to say he will contest the count before the Federal Electoral Tribunal, and has called for a mass meeting in Mexico City this Saturday.

As in the past two American elections, the conservative “winner” and various media are calling for unity and worrying about how the lack of finality will damage Mexico’s “young” democracy. There is a persistent implication in the American press that the PRD’s challenge of the election is part of the long political hegemony of the PRI (i.e., the now discredited policies of the past) and the PAN’s posture of defending the preliminary results signifies that it is the forward-looking defender of democracy. Unfortunately, this is closer to the PAN’s campaign rhetoric than it is to reality. The Associated Press is helping all of this along with its “exclusive” interview with Calderon, which conveniently makes him sound presidential (he offered AMLO a place in his cabinet, called for calm, etc.).

In the American case we learned that the challenge of winning a closely contested election has less to do with counting the votes and more to do with staking out an unassailable public position of victory. Once you have achieved the latter, any effort to achieve the former plays as sour grapes or worse. But this isn’t Florida or Ohio. So we shouldn’t expect the outcome to be the same. Hold on for a bumpy ride, and our old democracy might learn a thing or two.

Update: Calderon’s lead increased to 0.53% according to El Universal, which by the way loads more quickly and consistently than La Jornada. The LA Times is running a really good example of what I am complaining about in this post–treating the election as a done deal. But they also have a photo gallery with one image of AMLO supporters showing ballots allegedly found in a dump (see my previous post).

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