Mexico: Will more election protests make a difference?
The YoSoy132 movement and other activists groups are planning a new wave of protests against the July 1st election results.
By MANUEL RUEDA
This weekend, the #YoSoy132 student movement met with some 250 activist groups to discuss how to resist the “imposition” of president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
During the meeting, which was called the “National Convention Against Imposition,” activists planned a series of protests and acts of civil disobedience that are reminiscent of 2006, the year in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador paralyzed Mexico City after losing what he called a “fraudulent” election to Felipe Calderon.
Activists blame Peña Nieto of winning the election through vote buying and other dirty schemes. Here’s what they discussed this weekend:
To begin with, activists agreed to march through the streets of Mexico once again in a “mega-marcha” slated for July 22nd.
Televisa has been one of the main targets in post election protests.
Just five days later on July 27th, #YoSoy132 is calling on opponents of Peña Nieto to simultaneously picket the offices of TV giant Televisa all over the country.
This demonstration is timed with the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics — an important day for Televisa and its ratings.
Activists said they will call for a general strike on August 8th, the birthday of Emiliano Zapata. The revolutionary leader fought against dictatorial rule in the early 20th century and his struggle inspired the Zapatista movement in Chiapas in the 1990s.
Activists also discussed interfering with toll booths along certain highways on August 8th so that drivers don’t have to pay to pass through. This pressure tactic, —which makes the government and highway operators lose money—was also employed by López Obrador in 2006.
In the meantime, leftist candidate López Obrador will be trying to convince Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal to annul the July 1st election results by presenting evidence of vote buying and other irregularities.
In a press conference last week, López Obrador announced he would challenge election results in court.
The seven judge tribunal has until September 6th to review the evidence and decide whether the elections were valid or invalid.
Legal analysts I’ve spoken to however, have said it is highly unlikely that the tribunal will throw out elections results.
Activists who met over the weekend seem to be cognizant of this as they also talked about post-September protests.
One possibility that was discussed, for example, was a nation-wide university strike on October 2nd. Plans to block Peña Nieto from attending his December 1st inauguration ceremony are also in the works.
Lots of the election protests have been led by University students, but some have also had large non-university contingents.
The question now is whether demonstrations will gain momentum or lose popular support as people grow tired, forget about the elections and get on with their day-to-day lives.
Numbers provided by Mexico City’s Public Security Secretariat (SSDF) suggest that protests are already diminishing in size. According to the SSDF the first anti-Pena Nieto protest, which took place on May 19th, —more than a month before the July 1st election— was attended by 46,000 people in Mexico City. Only 4,000 Mexico City residents went to the latest march against the “imposition,” of Pena Nieto, on July 14th according to the SSDF.
Protests numbers are always subject to debate here in Mexico. Student groups said for example that 120,000 people attended the first post-election protest on July 7th.
But from what I’ve been able to observe since July 1st, it does seem like protests are getting smaller.
In the first post-election march on July 7th, for example, I took pictures on the corner of Insurgentes and Reforma Avenues in Mexico City where demonstrators streamed by for hours.
On Saturday July 7th protesters packed Reforma Avenue as they made their way to the central Zocalo Square.
Last Saturday, it took just a half hour for protesters to march by along exactly the same route.
The post election protest on Saturday, July 14.
One interesting thing to watch out for nevertheless, is the influence that protesters could have on the judges at the Federal Electoral Tribunal.
To get the election results annulled López Obrador must prove that serious irregularities occurred in at least 25 percent of voting booths across the country. Or prove that violations were so great that they led directly to the PRI’s 3-million-plus vote advantage on July 1st.
Last week, legal analyst John Ackerman told us that it is “highly unlikely” that López Obrador will have enough evidence on hand to convince judges to throw out the elections.
But even if judges to don’t find enough reason to cancel the elections as a whole, protests could sway them to hand out stiffer fines and penalties to the PRI, for those instances of vote buying and other violations for which there is compelling evidence. Protesters after all, are already putting the electoral tribunal on the spot, and the judges —who in past election have punished parties for exceeding campaign spending limits— may want to demonstrate that they are tough on electoral crime.
What the protests are also doing is weakening Enrique Peña Nieto’s credibility.
Expect the new president to make some conciliatory moves as he tries to cement his leadership and show Mexicans that he is not “such a bad” guy.
It will also be interesting to see how Peña Nieto attempts to reach out to his more moderate opposition in the National Action Party, or PAN, which obtained 25 percent of votes in the elections and holds a substantial portion of congressional seats.
Peña Nieto’s presidency and capacity to lead Mexico may be crippled without greater legitimacy and the support of at least some political opposition groups.