Defeated Mexican leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has given new meaning to the term sore loser. Indeed, he is in danger of becoming an archetype. He is not magnanimous in defeat; instead he whines, he sues, he foments protests, and he blames everyone but himself for his failures. Mr. Lopez Obrador should be taught in schools as an example of how not to behave when confronted with defeat.
Six years ago, when he narrowly lost the presidency, Mr. Lopez Obrador rallied thousands of supporters who then encamped for weeks in Mexico City’s main square to protest what he alleged was an election stolen by President Felipe Calderon, of the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) – this despite a total absence of evidence.
Now, Mr. Lopez Obrador has lost again, this time to president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The gap is more than six percentage points, while in 2006 it was just 0.5 per cent. Yet true to form, he has accused his victorious opponent of buying votes, and late last week said he will file a legal challenge to invalidate the election results, which he calls unconstitutional.
Mexico does permit practices that need to be reformed, among them the distribution of gift certificates which may well influence poor voters, although savvy ones collect the gifts from all givers and very likely go ahead and vote for whomever they intended to in the first place. Also, campaign overspending is only punishable through fines.
Last week, Mr. Lopez Obrador, who is from the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party, pledged to form a “movement to defend democracy.” In fact, Mexico’s electoral system puts many other democracies to shame.
The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is a nonpartisan, professional agency. It registers voters and issues biometric, photo ID cards, which ensure against voting irregularities. Poll officials are citizens who are recruited randomly in each district. The major political parties receive public financing for their campaigns, and media advertising is also paid for and shared equally. Foreign polling monitors have generally been satisfied that Mexico’s last two elections were fair.
Obviously, allegations of electoral misconduct need to be taken seriously. But increasingly, the same cannot be said for Mr. Lopez Obrador. His protests appear to have less to do with vote fraud than a bruised ego. Democracy has not been kind to the man, but maybe it is not the democracy that’s the problem.