Last week Mexico’s top National Electoral Institute (INE) president Lorenzo Córdova and secretary Ciro Murayama were caricaturized by daily La Jornada as a couple of clowns with Córdova telling Murayama “our time is running out” and Murayama answering “let’s use that time to finish INE off.”
Last week, they came up with a set of norms called the “even playing field” to outline the regulations leading to next year’s federal elections, which will include the complete change of both houses of Congress and the presidency of the republic.
The scorn unleashed against Córdova and Murayama is not unwarranted. Just as they were drafting the set of rules, they were totally incompetent to coming up with a solution to the Coahuila stalemated election for governor. Originally, Miguel Ángel Riquelme of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was declared winner, but only after having his campaign and that of his opponent Guillermo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN) audited —both accused of surpassing spending limits by over 5 percent of the allotted INE funds. This calls for an election annulment and a new election with neither of the two candidates having the right to participate for having used foul practices. That election held last June 4 is already six weeks old and INE has no solution.
This type of indecision while boasting and bragging about the elections next June may lead some cartoonists to have fun with these “characters” — really important officials to Mexican democracy. The same rules of overspending are being applied in Coahuila and were not put into practice in the State of Mexico, where INE is now being openly accused of collusion with the president’s PRI, and with the new even playing field regulations, all they are doing is trying to get out of a mud hole and walk into quick sand.
At one point both Córdova and Murayama have said that what is really going on is a “media war” against them “spurred by losers,” but let’s also take into consideration what Córdova and Murayama represent. INE is a diversified institute with state electoral boards in every one of the nation’s 32 states and in cases like the State of Mexico and Coahuila the state officials are being accused of being in collusion with PRI. Hence, it is not just INE under questioning but its entire national structure. As above, so below, as the ancient philosophical appraisal of the universe goes.
Córdova and Murayama know this but they are also aware that there is a thorough scrutiny of their actions going on and with Coahuila still without a governor elect, they have moved into next year’s mother of all Mexican elections.
Córdova published Monday that the “even field” regulations are not about elections but about checking out the spending in publicity by everyone of the participants and their use of officially granted time on radio, television and print media. He says issuing the rules is relevant now because officially the electoral fray starts under the INE schedule September 8 and they are issuing them because they came under pressure from the Federal Electoral Tribunal which in the end has the final say on all elections.
A problem the INE officials have detected in the past is that the restrictions were applied to political parties but many different individuals were using government sponsored time to promote them. There are many cases of elected officials carrying out their own state of achievements under the political post they held (mostly deputies and senators), but their real objective was to leapfrog opponents on their candidacy for a different political post.
“In essence,” Córdova says, “the rules approved by the INE general council is to avoid that those persons seeking the popular vote as candidates when the electoral process starts (Sept. 8) do so.”
There are candidates nowadays — Andrés Manuel López Obrador sticks out like a sore thumb — which have been doing this for years now, but Córdova says “the INE rules were not thought out and written to affect or benefit a particular person or political party. They are neutral rules that will be applied to anyone aspiring to run for an elected office.”
And the rules are all about money spent in campaigns and have nothing to do with regulating the funds issued by INE to individual candidates and have nothing to do with political ideas or freedom of expression.
The bottom down issue is that Córdova and Murayama have lost the most precious gift granted to them by the people: the confidence that they will run elections fairly and cleanly regardless of ideological political party participation.
If they are still feeling the flak from this year’s elections, the size of the things to come next year can easily be foreseen and there will be no stage for indecisions or clown shows.