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…11114 Crowds gather in front of Governor’s Palace to protest election PATRICIA MOORE irregularities, San Luis Potosi, Mexico LAS AMERICAS Irregularities Mark Latest Elections in Mexico For the second time in as many months, mass protests against electoral fraud have compelled Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari to instruct a newly “elected” governor to step down. Last month it was Ramon Aguirre in Guanajuato, followed two weeks ago by Fausto Zapata in San Luis Potosi. Both belong to Salinas’ Institutional Revolutionary Party for more than half a century. Despite the ongoing protests and forced resignations, however, President Salinas continues to insist that the country’s midterm elections were clean, and he challenges the opposition to prove otherwise. The president’s challenge is something of a Catch-22, since under so-called reform legislation he himself sponsored, the PRI enjoys undisputed control of all election commissions. Not only does the PRI use this control to tilt the playing field in its favor; it then denies the opposition access to the electoral information it would need to challenge alleged fraud. The Federal Electoral Institute has yet to disclose poll-by-poll results for last August’s elections, as requested by the opposition. As an observer of last summer’s elections, I experienced firsthand the extent of apparent PRI manipulation of the electoral process. In July, at the invitation of independent members of the Congress of Nuevo Leon, I traveled to Monterrey for the July 7 gubernatorial and state congressional elections. As in the subsequent August elections, those in President Salinas’ home state of Nuevo Leon were unusually tranquil, with few outward signs of irregularities. Yet in an inspection tour of 20 precincts distributed throughout metropolitan Monterrey I encountered serious structural biases, reflecting an electoral system run by a single political party. In each location visited, both the president and secretary turned out to be members of the Roughly one of every three polling stations was located at the home of a PRI member. Nowhere could one mark a ballot with the assurance of not being observed. On a tip that the PRI was bribing opposition National AcI visited four locations from a list containing the supposed targets: in two of the four, the PAN poll watchers were in fact absent. Even so, the absence of any sign of physical tampering or intimidation contributed to a general impression that the authorities had decided to play this particular election cleanly. In August, on my way to observe the elections in Guanajuato, I returned to Monterrey. In that city, three independent legislators provided me with two blue volumes, one containing the official results of the July 7 gubernatorial contest, the other of the congressional contest. I did not expect to find anything striking, since I assumed the state electoral commission, securely in the hands of the PRI, would have thoroughly cleansed the results of irregularities. Turning to a page at random, I immediately discovered otherwise. I was soon classifying several patterns of irregularities, each suggesting a distinct form of possible fraud. Most obvious were the precincts in which the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters. On first inspection, there were 63 of these in the governor’s race alone. Yet on closer examination I found others that had been concealed by massive annulment of ballots. In precinct 3-124 of Monterrey, for example, 931 ballots were cast for governor where only 872 persons were registered. But the authoriing the final tally to appear normal. Sixty such precincts raised the total in which the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters to 123. Further perusal of the results uncovered other oddities. In another 43 precincts, unusually large numbers of ballots had been annulled. Normally, ballots are annulled only, when voters leave them blank, select two or more parties, or otherwise fail to make their choice clear. Since such mistakes are infrequent, legitimate annulments seldom exceed 5 percent. Yet in the precincts in question, annulments exceeded 10 percent, and typically ranged between 20 and 60 percent. In precinct 10-169 in San Nicolas, for instance, 448 of nulled, leaving the PRI with a 449 to 106 advantage. The pattern was repeated in neighboring precincts 10-168 \(109 ballots annulled; PRI wins 484 ballots annulled; PAN victory elsewhere in this metropolitan Monterrey municipality. In rural Nuevo Leon, the PRI produced its by-now-classic shut-outs, claiming 100 percent of the vote in 56 precincts. Typically, the vote distribution actually peaked at 100 percent, as in district 26, where 17 of 70 precincts registered 100 percent for the PRI; 11 registered 99 percent; eight, 98 percent; five, 97 16 OCTOBER 18, 1991