Mexico’s Roman Catholic Council of Bishops issued a statement calling on politicians to leave post-electoral disputes behind and unite to fight poverty and violence.
“It’s time for peace, harmony and agreement,” the bishops’ statement said. “We want our representatives to demonstrate that they can work together.”
Confirmation of the PRI’s victory returns the party to Mexico’s highest office, which it held without interruption from 1929 to 2000. In past decades, the party engaged in widespread coercion of its opponents, monopolizing virtually every institution in the country. The party says it has reformed and handed control to a new generation of democratically-minded young technocrats with a vision of modernizing Mexico.
President-elect Pena Nieto has promised to focus on fiscal reform, infrastructure improvements and a new emphasis on preventing violence from affecting ordinary Mexicans as a result of the country’s six-year militarized offensive against drug cartels which has claimed the lives of over 50,000 people.
For much of his campaign, Lopez Obrador tried to move away from the angry, combative image that many Mexicans held of him after his supporters blockaded much of downtown Mexico City for weeks after his narrow loss in 2006. He adopted the slogan “Abrazos, No Balazos,” or “Hugs, Not Bullets,” put forth a warmer persona, a more business-friendly platform and an anti-crime program that relies largely on increased jobs and education programs.
Lopez Obrador ended up with 31 percent of the vote, to Nieto’s 38 percent, after months of polls gave the PRI candidate a lead as wide as 20 percentage points. The unexpected closeness of the race helped fuel Lopez Obrador’s lengthy post-election fight to invalidate the results, with him and his backers accusing the PRI camp of a range of violations, including vote-buying with both gift cards and, in rural areas, farm animals as well as participating in an international campaign finance money-laundering scheme.
The accusations centered on hundreds and possibly thousands of pre-paid gift cards that shoppers at a Mexican grocery store chain said they were given by Nieto’s party before the election. Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party showed reporters thousands of such gift cards, but never publicly demonstrated convincing evidence that millions of votes had actually been swayed by corrupt practices.
The PRI said in a statement on Friday that the ruling “has ended the contentious and combative phase of the federal electoral process and has fully demonstrated the legitimacy of Enrique Pena Nieto’s victory at the ballot box.”
The electoral justices said some of the evidence submitted was hearsay, or unclear. For example, they said the evidence included gifts allegedly given out by the PRI, without proof that was where they came from or that the gifts had been given to influence votes.
“The evidence absolutely didn’t support annulling an election with a difference of three million votes between first and second place,” said Jose Antonio Crespo, an analyst at the Center for Economic Studies.
Ivan Garcia Garate, a law professor at Iberoamerican University in Mexico City, said, however, that the electoral tribunal had adopted a very narrow view of its mandate and failed to conduct its own investigation of the charges, relying entirely on evidence presented by the left, and then declaring it insufficient.