Saturday, July 08, 2006

El Norte all over again South of the Border

It was refreshing to wake up and read this article by E. J. Dionne, which can also be found here, here or here.

López Obrador has had questions about the results in the state of Tabasco. Messrs. Calderón and López Obrador, please, please make sure that you don't have some close relative in charge of things down there. How would it look if the governor of the state was your own brother? What would people think if the top official in charge of elections was your sibling's partisan ally who made every key decision in your favor?

Another thing: Whichever one of you is ahead at any given point, please don't ask that the counting be stopped abruptly. Don't have some high-class lawyer with a name like Jaime A. Panadero III come out and say things like, "I don't believe that the people of Mexico want this national election turned over to lawyers and court contests" -- and then have the very same lawyer direct other lawyers to go to court to stop any further counts.

If either of you did such a thing, wouldn't it look hypocritical? Would it not seem as if all you cared about was obtaining power -- and that you didn't care how you got it? It would spoil the legitimacy of your election.

But, yes, there is an excellent chance that the Mexican election will end up in the courts. So it will be very important that the court rulings have credibility with the Mexican people, especially with those who end up on the losing side. The judges should exercise their power, well, judiciously. They need to make sure that they're not seen as making a partisan call.

Above all, this means not stopping recounts just before a deadline -- and then claiming, after the court-imposed delay, that there was no way to remedy the very problems in the counting that the court itself might point to because the deadline had passed.

It means that the judges should arrive at whatever decision they reach in a way that's consistent with their past views. They should not invent wholly new doctrines, utterly at odds with their previous positions, that happen to favor the candidate closer to their own ideological inclinations.

And, please, let there be no court decision so unprincipled that the judges themselves have to say that their ruling has no application to any future cases, that it "is limited to the present circumstances," because of the "many complexities" involved. That would make the whole court process look fixed, wouldn't it?
My Mexican friends could well object that it is insulting and ludicrous to presume their country is capable of coming up with such a nightmarish scenario. They would argue that no well-functioning democracy would ever settle a contested election in the ways I have just described.
I feel hopeful that Americans may be starting to notice that their own "democratic process" looks bad next to Mexico's, which didn't have the best record in the twentieth century. If this mysterious, new, reality-based way of seeing (known in China as "Seek truth from facts" 实事求是, shí shì qiú shì), currently out of vogue in the American political culture, could take hold in the US again, Americans may also notice that the national medical non-system is one of the worst in the world, the educational system has gone from tops to mediocre, and that around the world, the America of Bush is now more disliked (seen as a negative influence) than China and Russia.
Could be that what goes around comes around, and that the bad karma America imposed on places such as Chile, Iraq, El Salvador, and Mexico is now coming home to roost? The days when the three-letter agencies just killed and imprisoned foreign leaders and overthrew their governments are over. They have now conditioned the American people to accept the erosion of their freedom, leading to a political system that looks more and more like Russia and a social and economic system that resembles the ones we first set up years ago for Chile, Argentina, Colombia or Mexico. It may take a generation or it could be over in ten years, but the American system will decay and decline under the influence of Bushism. I mean, if America has higher levels of political and corporate corruption than Mexico has, our economy will eventually decline. Mexican immigrants may begin to flood back into Mexico the way immigrants who once left Japan, China, and India are now returning to their ancestral homes.

No comments: