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Executive Summary to Pre-electoral Assessment Report on Mexico's July 2 Elections

EDITORS NOTE: Following is an executive summary to an 11-page pre-electoral assessment report by The Carter Center on the July 2 elections in Mexico. You can access the entire report in English on the Center's website at: "". We apologize that a Spanish version of the report is not immediately available.

ATLANTA, GA...At the invitation of the major political parties and the government of Mexico and with the welcome of the Federal Election Institute, The Carter Center and its Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers will be sending a delegation to observe the elections in Mexico on July 2nd.

The delegation will be led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Bolivia President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. This is a summary of the report of the exploratory mission that assessed the pre-election conditions and recommended a monitoring strategy. The group met with senior officials of the major political parties, the Federal Election Institute (IFE), the Federal Electoral Tribunal, the government, and non-governmental organizations.

The Carter Center/Council has been assessing electoral conditions in Mexico for more than a decade, and it could not help but conclude that the conditions for free and fair elections have improved significantly. A series of reforms established a professional and autonomous IFE, a state-of-the-art election identification card, a public financing system that provides significant resources and access to the media, and an Electoral Court to adjudicate disputes and certify the results.

These changes have provided sufficient political space to allow the opposition to win nearly one-third of the state governorships, the Mayorship in the capital, and a majority in Congress. Most significantly, there is an even chance that an opposition candidate can win the presidency. The campaign has been fierce, but all sides have had the opportunity to get their message and party program out to the people.

Many accusations and concerns have been raised about the misuse of public funds, the unfairness of media reporting, and the lack of vigor by the Special Prosecutor (FEPADE) against electoral crimes, and there are high levels of suspicion that the election could be stolen or the results not accepted. The exploratory mission pursued these charges, and its report describes in some detail what we found. The concerns are legitimate, but the number of specific complaints presented to the authorities do not match the magnitude of the charges or the depth of the suspicions.

This might be the result of fear or intimidation or the lack of faith in the judicial process, but ultimately the standard for judging the charges has to be the law. The pre-electoral process in Mexico, in brief, has had flaws and inequities as one might expect from a system that has not seen alternation in power at the national level for 71 years. Nonetheless, despite these shortcomings, we believe that the campaign provided sufficient political space and access to the media for the major parties to get their messages to the people. The next test will be whether the vote is secret, and the count accurately reflects the preferences of the population.

We agree with the President of IFE that large-scale fraud is impossible. Given the close race, however, it is conceivable that even small-scale fraud of 1-2% could affect the outcome of the election. If such manipulation were to occur, it is most likely in the most remote rural areas. Given the large size of the country and the small size of our delegation, we have proposed a unique model of monitoring the election.

Our approach is based on the premise that the first line of defense for any election is party and non-partisan domestic observers. At their invitation, we will place our team in the offices of the major parties, IFE, the UN, and domestic NGO groups during the elections. We will use the eyes and ears of those with the most at stake - the political parties and candidates and seek to keep open lines of communication among all the actors and thus to help resolve disputes and keep the tensions low.

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