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July 07, 2006

Mexico -- A Silver Lining
Posted by Michael Signer

The coverage of the upcoming electoral stalemate in Mexico's Presidential election has an ominous tinge.  The New York Times tells us:

In the meantime, the way the candidates manage themselves and their supporters will determine whether or not this stalemate weakens or strengthens Mexico's young democracy.

After a tumultuous night in which both candidates claimed victory and held rowdy celebrations, conflicting feelings of concern rippled across a nation that is averse to political violence and that has lived through decades of electoral fraud.

Without being an expert on Mexico, I still think it's worth noting the silver lining here.  Mexico faces a test of the essential premise of the rule of law -- judicial review of political contests -- should prevail, no matter how much anxiety is provokes internally about possibilities.   And if the last two days of head-clutching are any indication, it's looking good that Mexico will take the democratic path this time around.

If Mexico -- a country that was run, dictatorially, by a single party for decades -- passes the test, it will demonstrate its ascension into the community of modern democracies.

Contested elections are perhaps the test par excellence of a democracy's strength.  They are messy and vexatious and inevitably partisan (the 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden came down to a party-line vote in Congressional committee, just as Bush v. Gore came down to Republican v. Democratic Justices on the Supreme Court). 

But it is the spirit in which these contested elections are conducted that tests the mettle (and proves the strength) of a democracy.  We should want Mexico's recount to be grinding, bureaucratic, vexatious, and nervewracking.  If it were conclusory or simple, it would be political, not judicial -- and that would mean backsliding toward Mexico's past.

Counting chads, waiting for judicial rulings, and hassling bureaucratic administrative officials -- not a good time, but good democracy.   


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Counting chads, waiting for judicial rulings, and hassling bureaucratic administrative officials -- not a good time, but good democracy.

Are you honestly holding up our Brooks Brothers riot as a model for other countries?

I suppose I'm old fashioned, but having the Supreme Court play ward boss was not a victory for democracy and the rule of law, IMO.

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