Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto ‘wins’ presidential poll
Mr Pena Nieto, 45, is on about 37%, several points ahead of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has not conceded.
Thousands of police were on duty for the vote, amid fears of intimidation from drug gangs.
Mexicans were also electing a new congress and some state governors.
Mexico City — After what was, by and large, an orderly and peaceful vote, the partial result from the country’s electoral authorities appears to confirm that it was Mr Pena Nieto’s night.
As soon as the traditional speech from incumbent President Felipe Calderon was over – in which he called Mr Pena Nieto the president-elect – the candidate addressed the crowds of his jubilant supporters.
He spoke of reconciliation, of governing for all Mexicans and said that “Mexico had won” no less than three times.
But with his nearest challenger, Mr Lopez Obrador, waiting for all the results before accepting defeat, Mr Pena Nieto will have a tough time winning over his critics.
Celebrations at the headquarters of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) started after the polls closed.
Mr Pena Nieto declared: “We all won in this election. Mexico won.”
“This is just the start of the work we have before us.”
He thanked Mexican voters for giving the PRI a second chance, saying his administration would have a “new way of governing”.
The election campaign was dominated by the economy and the war on drugs.
“There will be no pact nor truce with organised crime,” Mr Pena Nieto said.
He had been presented as the new face of the PRI, a break with the party’s long and at times murky past that included links with drug gangs.
The party held on to power for 71 years until it was defeated in 2000.
Mr Pena Nieto built his reputation on the “pledges” he set out for his governorship in Mexico state, focusing on public works and improvement of infrastructure.
Outgoing President Felipe Calderon has congratulated Mr Pena Nieto and promised to work with him during the transition to his inauguration in December.
“I sincerely hope for the smooth running of the next government for the benefit of all Mexicans,” Mr Calderon said, in a televised address.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, running for the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) is in second place with about 33% of the vote.
The official quick count, published by the electoral authorities (IFE), is based on returns from a sample of around 7,500 polling stations across Mexico.
Mr Lopez Obrador, who was the runner-up in the 2006 election, has not conceded victory.
“The last word hasn’t been spoken yet,” he said.
“We simply do not have all the facts. We are lacking the legality of the electoral process.”
In 2006, he refused to recognise Mr Calderon’s victory and led street protests for months afterwards.
Josefina Vazquez Mota, the candidate of the governing National Action Party (PAN) had already accepted defeat.
The initial results from IFE put her on some 25%.
Almost 80 million people were eligible to cast their ballots on Sunday.
Police and army were deployed to protect voters from intimidation by drug cartels at polling booths.
Officials said the voting was largely peaceful, but reported some initial problems as a number of stations opened later than planned.
“Everything has been very good,” one voter in Mexico City told the BBC. “But people aren’t very motivated to vote, perhaps because the candidates make so many promises but we’re always worse off.”
With nearly half the Mexican population living in poverty, the economy was one of the main issues in the campaign.
Unemployment remains low at roughly 4.5%, but a huge divide remains between the rich and the poor.
Another issue dominating the campaign was the war on drugs, launched nearly six years ago by President Calderon, who is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.
The main opposition candidates have been critical of Mr Calderon’s policies.
They point out that more than 55,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006.
Mexicans were also electing 500 deputies, 128 senators, six state governors, the head of government in the Federal District (which includes Mexico City) and local governments.
8 things the U.S. election system could learn from Mexico’s
The main question asked about the Mexican presidential elections on July 1 is whether victory by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) means that Mexico will return to its authoritarian past.
The answer is simple: The PRI has changed because Mexico has changed. For more than six decades, the PRI manipulated elections and ruled Mexico in a quasi-authoritarian system. However, between 1988 until 2000, two Mexican presidents – Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo – gradually responded to internal and external pressures and opened the economy and the political system.
I have observed elections in Mexico since 1986 and witnessed the transformation of the election system from the worst to the best in the Americas. The projected victory by PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto will not turn Mexico backwards. Mexicans have chosen democracy, and after two terms under PAN presidents, they are voting for change.
Indeed, in this year when the United States is engaged in a ferocious campaign for the presidency, the question that ought to be asked is: How does the U.S. electoral system compare to Mexico’s? I undertook a comprehensive study of the electoral systems in North America, and the good news is that the United States came in third. The bad news is that there are only three countries in North America.
In fact, the Mexican electoral system is much fairer, professional, independent and non-partisan than the U.S. system on all eight criteria for assessing election administration:
1. Nonpartisan election administration. Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is a nonpartisan, professional institution in which political party representatives have access but no control. IFE manages a nation-wide system with uniform rules. In contrast, the United States has 13,000 counties and municipalities that manage our national elections with different rules and less capacity. Partisan officials generally control the process, and in a close election, the opposition is often suspicious of the result.
Follow the Mexican election coverage in Spanish at CNNMéxico.com
2. Registration and identification of voters. IFE actively registers about 95% of 77 million eligible voters and gives each a biometric, photo ID card, which Mexicans use as a primary identification. The registration list is audited regularly, and the photos of the voters are on the list in each polling site.
In contrast, U.S. states and communities passively register about 55% of eligible voters, and the lists are flawed with many duplicates and errors, especially between states and counties. Each state has different rules, and in states where Republicans have a majority, their focus on preventing electoral fraud has led them to restrict registration and require IDs, while Democrats are more concerned about voters’ access and believe the Republican ID laws are aimed to suppress voter turnout from poor people or minorities. The truth is that we ought to adopt Mexico’s national, biometric ID system. That would eliminate duplicates and simplify the registration and voting process.
Related: Voter ID laws: Discrimination or ‘no big deal’?
3. Poll workers. Mexico views the conduct of elections like Americans view jury duty – a civic obligation – and they recruit on a random basis a large number of people from each district. They are well-trained in every stage of the electoral process. When I asked a U.S. election official about the criteria for choosing poll workers, he said: “I’ll take anyone with a pulse.” Most poll workers are very senior citizens without the kind of stamina necessary to manage a polling station for 12 hours, and in most cases, they are poorly trained as compared to their Mexican counterparts.
4. Campaign finance/corruption. Each of Mexico’s main political parties receive approximately $24 million of public financing for a three-month campaign. They can also receive 10% of their funds from supporters, but no one can give more than $71,000. In contrast, in the United States, there will be an estimated $6 billion raised privately, and with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money. Major contributors could have extraordinary access and substantial influence over public policy. Some would define that as corruption on a scale that even the drug cartels couldn’t compete.
5. Equitable access to the media/negative advertising. IFE pays for media advertising, and ensures that the candidates have equal access. IFE also tries to discourage any negative advertising. A substantial amount of the $6 billion raised by the candidates in the United States goes for media advertising, and a recent study showed that 70 percent of ads in this year’s presidential contest has been negative. Just think what $6 billion could do as an endowment to a university; it would have lasting positive effects. Who believes that negative advertising can have a lasting positive effect?
6. Neutralizing incumbency. Since its revolution, Mexico’s constitution prohibits re-election in order to prevent incumbents from using government to manipulate the electoral process. IFE goes even further by trying to prevent the president from even campaigning in the most indirect way for his party’s candidates. In the United States, incumbents have a huge advantage in fund-raising because special interests can contribute to members of Congress while they are writing laws.
7. Judging disputes. Mexico has minutely-detailed election laws, and a professional and independent Electoral Tribunal to judge election disputes. The United States has few laws and no court with the expertise to settle such disputes.
8. Observers. Mexico invites international polling observers while the U.S. government does not welcome any international observers, and only two states allow them.
It was partly because of decades of electoral fraud that the Mexican people decided to construct a completely professional, independent and nonpartisan election organization. This has not eliminated all problems, but as compared to the thousands of complaints received by U.S. election authorities, the concerns from Mexico are minor.
A measure of commitment is that Mexico’s IFE spends roughly 10 times more per capita than the United States to manage a state-of-the-art electoral process. The U.S. system is so antiquated, decentralized, dysfunctional, under-funded with public resources, and over-funded with private interest money that it behooves us Americans to stop asking whether the PRI is a return to the past in Mexico and to start asking why can’t our electoral system be as good as Mexico’s.
The U.S. could and the U.S. should establish an independent national nonpartisan election administration with a national biometric ID, a single national (or inter-operable) registration list, restrictions on private funding, public financing for short campaigns, poll workers that are recruited by lot and well-trained, disincentives for negative advertising, independent electoral courts, and international and domestic observers. There is much work for us to do before we can catch up to Mexico.
Robert A. Pastor is professor and co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University and author of “The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future.” The views expressed in this article are solely those of Robert A. Pastor.
Mexico & Latin America | Immigration
Driving, waiting for hours to vote in Mexico’s election
They drove down from Chula Vista, Corona, Ontario and Los Angeles, carrying their Mexican voter credentials and hopes for the future of their native country.
Mexicans living in Southern California crossed the border into Baja California on Sunday, joining long lines of voters at Tijuana’s international airport, eager for the chance to help choose a new president.
“We want a change for Mexico, we want things to get better for our children’s sake,” said Maria Teresa Arellano, 41, a Mexico City native now living with her husband and their four children in the Eastlake area of Chula Vista.
Arellano and her husband, Jose Alvarez, 43, arrived shortly before 8 a.m. Many others had come earlier, forming queues for two voting booths set up side by side outside the airport lobby. By 11 a.m., the couple were finally able to cast their ballots.
Those waiting converged from diverse walks of life: Exequiel Ezcurra, 62, a scientist at the University of California Riverside, heads the Institute for Mexico and the United States. Elias Barragan, 74, a retired machinist from Ontario, studied agronomy in his homeland of Guadalajara.
“This is not a burden, because we have a dream that Mexico be a first-rate, first-world country,” said Barragan, who voted for Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution.
Rosa Young, 64, traveled from University City to cast her ballot – despite her migraine. Ignacio Ramirez Martinez, a former field worker, drove with his son from Corona and waited in a wheelchair (he had just been released from a monthlong hospital stay). Christian Gonzalez, 34, a hotel sales manager, started his trek from north of Los Angeles at 6 a.m. despite having mixed feelings about the candidates.
“It was not easy to figure out who to vote for,” said Gonzalez, originally from Puerto Vallarta. Ultimately, he decided that Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party was the best choice because “she can do a cleaner job.”
Mexicans living abroad have had the option of voting by mail through absentee ballots since Mexico’s last presidential election in 2006. To do so this year, they needed to register by Jan. 15. As of Sunday afternoon, Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute had counted 38,000 ballots, an official said.
The other option was to travel to Mexico, where the institute set up special voting stations for “Mexicans in transit” – people unable to vote in the community where they are registered.
Baja California had 40 stations – five in each of the state’s eight electoral districts.