Cablegate: Ngo Cites Election "Irregularities," Supports

Published: Wed 19 Jul 2006 04:31 PM
DE RUEHME #3999/01 2001631
R 191631Z JUL 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) Summary: On July 14, poloffs met with Silvia Alonso,
Executive Secretary of the influential NGO Alianza Civica
(Civic Alliance), to discuss the findings of her
organization's election observation mission. She called on
the electoral tribunal (TEPJF) to give greater credibility to
the election results by ordering a recount of ballots from
contested polling stations. While Alonso acknowledged that
she had not found any concrete proof of widespread or
systematic fraud, she said Alianza Civica's (AC) observers
had witnessed a number of irregularities, including possible
voter coercion and inconsistent vote tally sheets, as well as
anomalies in the Federal Electoral Institute's preliminary
count (PREP), which she believes undermine public confidence
in the fairness of the electoral process. She emphasized
that AC was not condemning the IFE's handling of the
election, but rather was seeking a recount to promote greater
public confidence in the results and the legitimacy of the
newly-elected government. End summary.
2. (U) On July 14, poloffs met with Silvia Alonso, the
Executive Secretary of AC, an organization devoted to
fostering greater transparency and citizen participation in
the Mexican political process, to discuss the organization's
recent report on its election observation mission. In
coordination with 28 different organizations, AC fielded over
2000 Mexican national observers along with 46 foreign
observers in 26 states. Because of its wide reach, AC is
considered one of Mexico's most credible election-related
NGOs and its call for a recount was widely published in major
newspapers across Mexico.
3. (U) Alonso praised IFE's efficiency and organizational
skills, particularly its ability to open all but 11 of over
130,000 polling booths planned nationwide. She said that
while her AC's observers had not uncovered any evidence of
widespread or systematic fraud, they had detected enough
irregularities in individual precincts to warrant a recount,
at least in those precincts. One such problem related to the
PREP count of the votes, which showed more votes having been
cast for senate candidates than for the presidency in certain
precincts. Given the closeness of the presidential race, she
asserted that such anomalies aroused suspicion as to the
PREP's integrity. Although the PREP itself was an unofficial
count, she argued that its anomalies eroded public confidence
that IFE's final results were legitimate.
4. (U) Alonso also discussed some of the problems AC
observed in polling stations on Election Day. She noted that
4% of the polling stations AC visited did not have ink to
mark votersQ, thumbs after they voted, and in 15% of the
precincts, the ink apparently was of the incorrect type and
was easily washed off. According to AC observers, this
occurred mostly in the states of Coahuila, Oaxaca, and
Yucat n. In 2% of the observed polling stations,
particularly in Morelos, Coahuila, and Guerrero, AC observers
reported cases of citizens arriving to vote who already had
apparent ink stains on their thumbs; she was unable to
confirm whether election workers had turned such voters away.
(Note: These irregularities did not consistently occur in
states favoring one particular political party; while
Coahuila and Yucatan favored the PAN, Morelos, Guerrero and
Oaxaca favored the PRD. End note.)
5. (U) Alonso also mentioned that AC's observers detected
possible violations of the right to a free and secret vote in
11% of the voting booths they visited. In most such cases,
AC observers saw unauthorized people lingering around the
polling stations, apparently holding lists of votersQ, names,
presumably to keep track of who voted. In a few cases,
voters were observed revealing their votes to poll officials,
and in some polling booths there was no curtain to assure
voters' privacy. In 14% of the polling stations AC observed,
a less coercive but nonetheless illegal form of pressure came
in the form of "mareas" or groups of people dressed in party
colors, presumably to sway voters to vote for a particular
political party. (Note: Embassy observers in a traditional
PRI stronghold in Oaxaca witnessed several men dressed in
"PRI red" lingering around the voting place; nevertheless, in
that particular voting station, the voting booths had
curtains, guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote, and the men
were not seen communicating with the voters. End note.) In
9% of the polls observed, AC representatives witnessed voters
being transported to the polls in large numbers ("voter
round-ups"), a possible violation of electoral law.
6. (U) As for the July 5-6 vote retabulation, AC had
representatives in 61 of IFE's 300 district councils,
representing 14 different states. Alonso described to us
three types of problems that AC detected at the district
retabulations. First was the failure of many of the district
presidents to call out the results publicly, as is standard
procedure, so that everyone present could hear. She
conceded, however, that party representatives had access to
paper copies of the PREP results and the Election Day tally
sheets, so any inconsistency could be detected and challenged
if necessary. Second, in some districts the PREP result did
not correspond with the final results in the possession of
party representatives. In many such cases, party
representatives requested recounts; these recounts were
often, but not universally, granted. Finally, the AC
identified a precinct in Nuevo Leon in which the number of
ballots cast was greater than the number of voters registered.
7. (U) Although Alonso was complimentary of IFE's technical
abilities, she said its General Council had demonstrated a
lack of political aptitude or sensitivity. She said IFEQ,s
credibility may have been damaged not only by the problems
with the PREP and official counts, but also by its failure to
intervene to address possible electoral law violations during
the campaign. For instance, IFE had to be ordered by the
TEPJF to order the PAN to remove a Calderon television ad
declaring L"pez Obrador "a danger to Mexico," something she
asserted it should have done on its own initiative, given its
mandate to control slanderous political advertising. Alonso
also pointed out the lack of IFE intervention when President
Vicente Fox openly and repeatedly called for political
continuity during the campaign, implicitly (and
impermissibly) favoring Calder"n. Given these pre-election
controversies, the Election Day irregularities, and the
narrowness of the margin, Alonso told poloffs she believed
IFE General Council President Luis Carlos Ugalde had been too
forthcoming in his remarks on July 6, when he announced that,
according to IFE's final returns, Calderon had received the
most votes. (Note: In a July 12 meeting, IFE Counselor
Alejandra Latapi (reftel) told poloffs that IFE President
Ugalde had made a point of never officially declaring
Calderon the "winner;" she said that in his July 6 remarks,
Ugalde had simply announced that according to IFE's final
returns, Calderon had received the most votes, and that "the
golden rule of democracy establishes that the candidate with
the most votes wins." End note.)
8. (SBU) Comment: Alonso emphasized that although AC found
no proof of widespread or systematic fraud, there were
numerous irregularities, and she could not rule out the
possibility that some represented isolated cases of fraud.
She admitted that in many cases, human error, especially
among less educated election workers, could be the main
culprit behind the irregularities. While IFE did its best to
train election officials at the polling booths, under IFE
procedures, these "officials" were all chosen at random from
the general population, and the only educational prerequisite
was that the workers be literate. Many had no previous
experience in working on elections. Under these
circumstances, numerous mathematical and procedural errors
were inevitable. Alonso stressed that she had confidence in
the integrity of the TEPJF and believed that a partial or
complete recount, at the discretion of the TEPJF, would help
restore public confidence in the election results.
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