LONDON — The Olympics are the prime example of a system that thrives on an adherence to strict, and sometimes brutal, rules. At the games any unfair advantage leads to elimination, which is how any serious competition should operate.
Last week in London I attended some track and field events, where I witnessed the disqualification of Turkey’s Nagihan Karadere from the 400-meter hurdles after she left the starting blocks early. In that split second, Karadere’s false start — unintentional, no doubt — ended the competition for her. The rules are the rules, and it did not matter to the judges that she had likely spent much of her life training for that race. Guidelines are equally stringent in field events like the pole vault, where athletes have only three opportunities to clear the bar before being eliminated. There are no fourth chances.
At the Olympics the rules are clear and apply to everyone; few complain when the final results are announced.
This got me thinking about Mexico’s electoral system, which not only allows candidates to manipulate and use most unfair advantages available to them when competing for office, but sometimes rewards them for doing so. I wondered about the July presidential election: If real rules were in place, would the Institutional Revolutionary Party still be accused of breaking them? Probably not.
But that’s not the case. It is becoming increasingly evident that the PRI, unsure that its candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, could win the election fairly, resorted to underhanded tactics. Opponents accuse the party of giving away prepaid gift cards to influence voters before the election, of spending more than campaign regulations allowed and of paying media organizations for favorable coverage. The president-elect and PRI officials have strongly denied these accusations — yet it is hard to overlook the evidence of those thousands of gift cards.
No, Mexico’s rules are not as strict as they should be, and we will likely never know with certainty whether cheating occurred or whether it affected the final outcome. While Pena Nieto’s challenger, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has filed a legal challenge to the election results, it is unclear why he kept campaigning if he suspected that the odds were stacked against him.
As I have mentioned before, it is crucial that independent journalists in Mexico continue to question and investigate this election. It’s not a matter of personal politics — it’s a matter of ethics. If Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or Josefina Vazquez Mota, of the National Action Party, had won and similar accusations had surfaced, I would raise the same concerns.
As for Lopez Obrador’s legal challenge, I seriously doubt that the Judicial Electoral Court will offer a remedy: Since when do Mexican judges act independently of political parties, the congress and the president? Lawyers’ arguments before the election tribunal will be delightfully tragic, and when the ruling is announced on Sept. 6, nothing will be settled. We will continue to suspect that the PRI cheated, but no one will be punished. Once again, impunity has determined the results of the race.
The worst part is that so many Mexican people believe that in order to win an election, you have to cheat. I’m afraid that this will just be accepted as a normal part of the political process.
As Mexico’s young, imperfect democracy evolves, we must reject the results of any election that is deemed unfair. Let’s not condemn ourselves to another 70 years of authoritarianism. Let’s make sure our leaders win elections the right way.
(PS: I’d like to express my solidarity with the Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho, who recently had to leave the country after her life was threatened. Since 2000, more than 80 journalists have been murdered in Mexico. By choosing safety, Cacho is rightly making sure that she is not silenced by the criminals she is trying to expose.)
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
(Agust 13, 2012)