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COMMENTARY f JAMES K. GALBRAITH Hanging Chads a la Mexicana The election was stolen. Its not in doubt. Colin Powell admits it. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute both admit it. Senator Richard Lugar of Indianaa Republicanwas emphatic: There had been “a concerted and forceful” program of election day fraud and abuse; he “had heard” of employers telling their workers how to vote; yet he had also seen the fire of the resisting young, “not prepared to be intimidated.” In Washington, Zbigniew Brzezinski has demanded that the results be set aside and a new vote taken, under the eyeno lessof the United Nations. In The New York Times, Steven Lee Myers decried “the use of government resources on behalf of loyal candidates and the state’s control over the media”factors, he said, that were akin to practices in “Putin’s Russia.” IIwrote those words two years ago, for . They referred, of course, to the election in the Ukraine, where the presidential candidate favored by the powhad claimed a tainted victory in a tight race. The thunder from America, citadel of democracy, was overwhelming. Nothing mattered more than to see the vote annulled, a new election held. The subsequent installation of Viktor Yuschenko as president of Ukraine was widely celebrated as a triumph for democracy. But that was in another country. Several weeks have passed since the presidential vote in Mexico, pitting Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party for a Democratic Revolution, or PRD, against Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action party, or PAN. The candidate who trailed, Lopez Obrador, has charged that the count was cooked. He has challenged the result in court. No resolution is due before September. Yet the stalwarts of democracy outside Mexico are silent. Bush has congratulated Calder6n, not waiting for the court to rule. Reuters and Bloomberg echo the confidence of the elites that Calderon will win in courtnever mind whether he won at the polls. When The New York Times is heard from, the headlines tell us of “leftist claims” about the occurrence of fraud, while Calder& is described as “presidential.” The Times never doubted that fraud occurred in Ukraine. In Mexico, it seemingly renounces any duty to examine the facts on the ground. Here’s one difference between the two situations. In Ukraine, it was extremely hard to learn exactly what the evidence of fraud was. In Mexico, it is extremely easy. That is because the Mexican electoral authority, known as IFE, posted the ongoing count on its Web site in real time, an initiative called PREP. Independent scholars kept a record of PREP as the night progressed. A statistical analysis of that record does not, of course, constitute proof. But it brings to mind Henry David Thoreau’s remark that circumstantial evidence can be very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. To begin with, a simple matter. According to an article by Roberto Gonzalez Amador in La Jornada, the vote totals don’t match the percentages reported. Given the slightly more than 15 million votes Calderon was said to have earned, the percentage reported for him, 35.89 percent, could only be obtained by including invalid ballots in the total reported. If, on the other hand, one takes the overall vote total and the percentage reported for Calder6n as correct, then his total vote must have been substantially less than reported. The same is true for AMLO, Lopez Obrador’s nickname, and the other candidates, and there is a total shortfall of more than a million votes between what can be justified by official percentages of valid votes and the sum of votes reported. The discrepancy proves nothing, but even if it is only a simple error, it certainly seems to cast doubt over the competence of the count. Let’s turn to the harder stuff. An analysis by the physicist Luis Mochan of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, based on the real-time evolution of the vote count and the distribution of vote totals by polling place, can be found on the Internet. It’s not easy reading, but is immensely worthwhile. It’s possible that Mochan’s work inaugurates a new era in real-time checking for vote fraud, made possible by the simplicity of Mexico’s first-past-the-post direct vote and the rich electoral data sets that can be made instantly available. Call it the age of transparency, in collision with an oligarchy of thugs. Mochan’s work calls attention to at least four important anomalies in the count. 1.Calderon’s percentage lead in the count started at around 7 points and diminished steadily in percentage terms through the first part of the count. This corresponded to a remarkably constant absolute differential between Calderon and AMLO as the count progressed. Is this normal? The count depended on the arrival of the boxes; if this were random, then the proportions should have held roughly constant while absolute differentials widened, as actually happened to the differential between Calderon and the third major candidate, Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, for most of the evening. Why did the Calderon-AMLO differential follow a different rule? 2.The PREP results went on view only after the first 10,000 boxes had been processed. If those boxes resembled what came later, then extrapolating backward should produce a continued on page 27 JULY 28, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13