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Federal Electoral Institute Unable To Stop Governing Party From Using Patronage Programs To Influence Voters

LADB Article ID: 53861
Category/Department: Mexico
Date: 2000-06-07
By: LADB Staff

The independent Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) has taken extraordinary steps to prevent outright fraud in the July 2 presidential elections. But the IFE has been unable to stop the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) from using more subtle traditional methods to try to influence voters in what is expected to be one of the tightest presidential elections in Mexican history. Among other things, the IFE has implemented a strict system of voter verification, developed tamper-proof ballot boxes, and installed a computerized system that will post returns on the Internet on election day. These changes are intended to prevent a repeat of the 1988 election, which the PRI is widely accused of having stolen after engineering a "computer malfunction." In the end, Carlos Salinas de Gortari won the race with less than 50% of the vote. Conversely, the IFE has been powerless to prevent the PRI from resorting to its traditional practice of bribing voters to support the party in the July election. This practice is especially evident in rural areas, where residents have come to associate public-assistance programs directly with the governing party. "I think the IFE can guarantee a fair vote count, but unfortunately it does not have the jurisdiction to oversee whether voters are being pressured," said Rogelio Gomez, director of the citizens watchdog Alianza Civica. A public-opinion poll conducted by MUND Opinion Services among participants in public-assistance programs like Progresa and Procampo found strong sympathies for the PRI. In the poll, 43% of respondents said they intended to vote for the PRI.

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