Upcoming Mexican Election Seen as Travesty of Democracy
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Monopoly control of elections unfortunately relativizes other reforms. Limits on campaign spending mean little when the only big spender is in effect accountable only to itself.Skip to next paragraph
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In the absence of more fundamental reforms, photo-ID cards become another instrument of deception. Random checks of the new voter rolls in Mexico City have revealed that more than 12 percent of registered voters have fictitious addresses. The cards also do not address new forms of electoral fraud, such as the selective purging of opposition voters from registration lists.
Far from seeking to democratize Mexico, the aim of the reforms is to reinforce one-party rule while securing enough seats for the opposition to provide a semblance of pluralism. With complete control over registration and vote counts, and unrestricted access to millions of dollars of government ``Solidarity'' funds, the danger now is that the PRI will fare too well to be credible. That was the lesson learned two years ago, when the PRI claimed almost two-thirds of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and all but three seats in the Senate. To guard against such overkill, the latest ``reforms'' limit the PRI to 315 of 500 seats in the lower house and 96 of 128 seats in the Senate. This, it is hoped, will allow Mexico to portray itself as a democracy, even as it preserves authoritarian rule.
BY preparing to hold on to power in 1994 even if it means denying Mexicans their most basic political rights, the PRI risks plunging the country into turmoil over elections the opposition now insists are stacked. Following recent gubernatorial elections in Guanajualo, San Luis Potosi, and Michoacan, the president had to ask ``elected'' governors to step down after mass protests rendered the states ungovernable. If this scenario should repeat itself at the national level next year, there will be no such easy way out.
Just as disturbing is the Mexican government's continuing violation of OAS treaty obligations and the 1991 ruling of the Inter-American Commission. In January 1992, President Salinas amended the constitution to prohibit the national human rights commission from hearing cases involving infractions of political rights. The action reinforced the existing ban on judicial review of violations of political rights, which are not recognized as individual rights in the Mexican constitution. The present electoral reform deliberately sidesteps the OAS requirement of independent and impartial electoral authorities.
As the US Congress considers whether to approve NAFTA, it should inquire why the Mexican government is evading its legal obligations to its citizens and to the OAS. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHELCSPS.COM.