When is time to stop fighting?

19 Jul

Party mates are gradually abandoning Lopez Obrador in his fight against Mexico’s election results.

This “EPNdejo” is not my president (photo by Christhian Ferenc)

An editorial in the Spanish newspaper El Pais on 15 July called the second-place finisher in Mexico’s presidential election a ”burden” and advised the country’s left to rethink his leadership. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hit back, accusing Spain of “colonial journalism”. However, a number of the prominent members of his party seem to agree with the Spanish commentator.

AMLO, as Mr Lopez Orador is known in Mexico, filed a legal challenge to the results of the 1 July presidential election. It is now up to the three judges who sit on the Federal Electoral Court (Trife), the maximum authority, to address the complaints regarding the election. The court has until early September to rule on the validity of the vote.

Many senior officials from Amlo’s Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) believe their results were good. There were also elections for Congress, several state governors and local governments alongside the presidential poll. The PRD has won 101 out of 500 seats in the lower house of the Parliament, and 22 seats in the 128-member upper house. The party has also won two out of six contested governor posts and the one of the mayor of Mexico City.

If the successful candidates challenged the legality of the presidential vote, they would also be hanging question marks over their victory. Not suprisingly therefore, they are very careful when positioning themselves on the issue.

The newly elected governor of Morales, Graco Ramirez, has quickly distanced himself from AMLO, saying he prefers to govern his state.

The current mayor of  Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, has ruled out vote-buying in the capital .

His successor, Miguel Angel Mancera,  tweeted on 2 July: “Every candidate has the right to contest the election. Exceeding campaign expenses, as @EPN (Enrique Pena Nieto) did, is an electoral offence.” However, he recognized Mr Pena Nieto’s victory.

The PRD’s bigwigs urge Mr Lopez Obrador to avoid repeating 2006 and instead to take advantage of the influence the party has won in the Parliament and state governments to bring about the changes they propose.

There is something in it. But so there is in Mr Lopez Obrador’s claim that he cannot accept fraudulent results.

AMLO alleges that Mr Pena Nieto bought as many as 5 million votes – over 6% of Mexico’s 79 million voters. If this was true, the results of the election, which now say AMLO lost by some 7% of the vote, could have been very different.

Online battles

Although the support for AMLO is waning among his party colleagues and some commentators say he has alienated many of his middle class followers by the havoc of 2006, there are still many willing to fight battles for him on the streets as well as online.

Thousands took part in the second “mega march” in Mexico on 14 July. Videos of protests staged in other countries have been posted on Youtube.

Social media demonstrate well the support Mr Lopez Obrador is drawing, but also what a divisive personality he is.

Twitter trending topics mentions (data source: Topsy.com)

AMLO’s supporters have been generating Twitter’s trending topics since the election. Many of these soared to a couple of hundred thousand mentions in a day, although they have quickly died out.

Two words, mosty used by AMLO’s fans, have kept consistently high volume of mentions: “fraude” (fraud) and #yosoy132 (I am 132, a student movement opposing the election of Mr Pena Nieto).

“Soriana”, the supermarket chain whose vouchers were allegedly used to buy votes for Mr Pena Nieto, has been also frequently mentioned. It has developed variations such as #sorianagate or #yocomproensoriana (I shop in Soriana).

There have been short-lived strong hash tags such as #epnnuncaseramipresidente (EPN will never be my president), with over 370,000 mentions on 3 and 4 July or #megamarcha (mega march), with almost 370,000 mentions on 7 July, the day when the first “mega march” against the election results took place.

#ExigimosDemocracia (we demand democracy), soared to 126,794 mentions  on 7 July, followed by #quefaltaderespeto (what a lack of respect), with 90’545 on 9 July and then by #amlonoterindes (AMLO don’t give in), with 69,157 mentions on 12 July.

Many influential twitterers criticized the PRD leaders for not backing Mr Lopez Obrador.

The tweet by @Facso on 11 July was retweeted 110 times: “This #LaIzquierdaVsAMLO (the left against AMLO) is right. Neither Ebrard, nor Mancera, nor Cardenas has positioned themselves strongly alongside AMLO. Strange”

Some said the elected PRD candidates owe their victories to AMLO.

A message by @cesargasca on 9 July was retweeted 9 times: “We demand that governors Mancera, Mr Graco and Mr Nunez maintain their support for AMLO. Thanks to him they won.”

Although this claim is questionable. In the traditional PRD’s power base in Mexico City half a million more people voted for Mr Mancera in local elections than for Mr Lopez Obrador in the presidential poll on the same day.

On the other side of the AMLO emotional spectrum, @reina_ximena tweeted: “#LaizquierdavsAMLO These political groups have to distance themselves from AMLO, otherwise they will fall into violence.”

@garca_ale triggered 16 retweets on 11 July: “#AMLO radicalizes the left movement, believing that if they don’t think like him, they are against Mexico.

Many in the PRD now seem to be coming to a conclusion that AMLO has no chance of winning them the country’s presidency. They have started considering their 2018 candidate for the top office. And although AMLO is still in the game, the names of Miguel Angel Mancera and the current Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard have already been put forward.



5 Jul

For the moment, Mexico’s losing presidential candidate follows in his 2006 steps. Will he change the course?


Three days after the presidential election in Mexico on 1 July, few wonder who has won. The breaths are held to see if Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will accept more easily thand the last time that it is not him.

In 2006, he lost the race for the country’s top office by less that 1% to the current President Filipe Calderon. This year the margin is much larger. According to preliminary results, Enrique Pena Nieto has won 38.15% and Mr Lopez Obrador 31.64% of the vote.

Six year ago, the followers of the leftist candidate occupied streets during months following the elections. Mr Lopez Obrador repeatedly apologised for the havoc, which, some analysts say, has cost him at this year’s polls. However, for the moment the post-election events strikingly resemble the 2006 sequence. Here is a comparison:

  • Mexicans casted their votes on 2 July in 2006.
  • In 2012, the election day was on 1 July.
  • A day after the 2006 election, Mr Lopez Obrador showed a press conference copies of results from some polling stations, which he said didn’t match the preliminary results published by Mexico’s election body on the internet. Three million votes were missing from the preliminary results total, he said.
  • In 2012, a day after the election, Mr Lopez Obrador was the only presidential candidate refusing to concede defeat, saying he would wait until all the votes were counted. He told a press conference that he cannot accept “fraudulent results” and announced that “if it will be necessary to request a vote recount, he will do it”.
  • Two days after the 2006 election, on 4 July, preliminary indicated that Mr Lopez Obrador won 35.34 per cent of the vote, 1 per cent behindFelipeCalderon.He rejected the results and called for a recount.
  • In 2012, on 3 July, he tweeted that in accordance with law, the vote-count in 300 districts should be revised.

Although some media suggested that Mr Lopez Obrador promised during his campaign to accept this year’s results, he has always attached conditions to this.

When a group of intellectuals asked him on 7 June if he was willing to sign a document confirming that he will accept the verdict of the electoral authority, he replied:  “If there is a fraud, how can I accept it? It would be a betrayal of democracy, it would be to betray ourselves”.

Already before the elections took place he was speaking about numerous irregularities.

So, what can we expect if the events in Mexico continue to follow the 2006 course?

Here is how it happened back then:

  • Four days after the elections, on 6 July, Mr Lopez Obrador announced at a news conference that he would challenge the election results with the Federal Electoral Tribunal and demand that the votes are re-counted “one-by-one”.
  • On 7 July, he called on his supporters to rally the following day at the Mexico City’s main square, Zocalo, to protest against the election result.
  • On 8 July, the defeated candidate announced that the following day he would challenge the election in Mexico’s highest electoral court, because it has violated the principles of legality, independence, impartiality, and objectivity, consecrated in Article 41 of the Constitution.
  • On 9 July, Mr Lopez Obrador held a protest rally in Zocolo and called for further demonstrations on 12 and 16 July to protest against the election result. He asked a special seven judge electoral tribunal to order a full recount because of what he said were irregularities and fraud in the vote counting process.
  • On 16 July, he repeated demands for vote-by-vote recount during protest in Zocolo.
  • On 30 July, the Mexican leftist called on his supporters to occupy the centre of the capital in permanent camps until there is a recount of all the votes.
  • On 28 August, Mr Lopez Obrador refused to accept defeat after a top court rejected his fraud claims and vowed to fight on to overturn the result.
  • On 5 September, he rejected the ruling that declared Felipe Calderon a president-elect and refused to recognise him as such. He called for a National Democratic Convention in Zocolo on 16 September.
  • On 16 September, a resolution of the National Democratic Convention named Mr Lopez Obrador the “legitimate president.” Following the voting on the Convention’s proposals, the delegates agreed that they would not recognize Felipe Calderon as the president-elect or his government.
  • On 20 November, Mr Lopez Obrador was sworn in as Mexico’s “legitimate president” at a special ceremony in Zocolo. A massive protest was slated for 1 December to oppose the inauguration of Mr Calderon.




Le Pen made it!

18 Jun

Marine Le Pen can, and at the same time, cannot be satisfied with the results of the legislative elections on 10 and 17 June. Under her leadership, the far-right National Front has finally escaped from the curse of the French electoral system that has kept it out of the Parliament for the last 24 years. It will now have two deputies sitting there. However, as a big surprise, not Marine, but her 22-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, will be one of them.

Social media has not been kind to this newly elected legislator, with many netizens pointing to her perceived immaturity.

“Can I also have my kids looked after by the National Assembly?” joked ‏@JCBordes at 8:38 PM on 17 June.

One tweet linked to a Youtube video from August 2010, headlined “When Marion Le Pen cracks”. Then 20-year-old woman speaks about her political activism. Unable to answer a trivial question about her programme for the regional elections she is running in, she walks out of shot.

The video generated a lot of comment following her election to Parliament this year.

Other twitterers are critical of Marion’s claim that she represents France’s youth:

‏”I’m happy to be a spokesperson for French youth”, she was quoted as saying by @BrozdziakFred, who added “She is a spokesperson for idiotic ideas”. (8:43 PM, 17 June)

In the same spirit, @Eli_Dy, asks who will explain to Marion Le Pen “that not all French youth are racist”. (3:56 PM, 18 Jun 12)
‏And puzzled @laur_ages adds: “I don’t know which youth she is talking about, because my youth send the FN (National Front) to hell. (10:28 PM, 17 Jun 12)

I must admit, there have also been tweets expressing admiration for the success of the young woman. Indeed, she is the youngest legislator in modern French history. One twitterer wondered why no other party has had a young person elected. “It is grotesque that the PS and the UMP have not been able to elect any young French people to the Parliament”, ‏@Bennoit1 tweeted at 9:54 PM on 17 June.

However, positive comments were much less frequent than criticism on Twitter.



23 May

Santiago de CubaAfter more than a year of wavering roaming, unable to decide on which part of the world to focus my blog, I’m coming home, to the Land of Mira.

As I was jumping from country to country – by actually setting my foot on their soil, or at a distance, following developments via traditional and social media or just word of mouth, I realized that all the countries that I care about cannot really be linked geographically.

But there is a common subject: call it human rights, social justice, or just justice – I guess there are many more words associated with what is a desire inherent in human beings – a desire for a better life.

This perfectly reasonable desire will be at the centre of this blog. Sometimes, I might stray into pure politics – because in the end, this is what often influences the chances for a better life. Or, oddly enough, sometimes not at all.

It’s interesting how the concept of a good life may vary. What are even financial difficulties in the crises-stricken Europe compared to the horrors of being raped daily  by soldiers of different warring sides in DR Congo?

By no means do I want to downplay the suffering, and its possible physical and psychological consequences, of those hit by financial crisis.

I’m realizing how dark and serious all this sounds. But I hope my blog will sometimes make you smile, perhaps will give you the hope that a better life is possible, make you want to help this to happen, or, at the very least, will make us all realize how lucky we are that we can peacefully browse the Web.

See my blog on Latin America. I will continue writing about this region in the Land of Mira.


Revolutionary zeal in Egypt

13 Mar

Can it help to make change easy and fast?

One month after President Mubarak stepped down, Tahrir Square continues to be a venue for passionate demonstrations

One thing is immediately clear in Egypt: People are extremely enthusiastic about their 25 January revolution. This is especially evident in Cairo, although it’s true throughout the country.

Just after I had arrived in the capital and went out to get my first kushary, a traditional Egyptian dish, a number of young people shouted at me: “Welcome to the NEW Egypt!” – eyes sparkling, wide smiles on their faces.

And then, whoever I’ve spoken to, has inevitably asked: “So what do you think about the revolution?”

I’ve congratulated them and expressed my hope that everything will change for the better. And they have invariably replied: “It surely will!”

“Things have been already changing,” Mostafa told me. “In Nasr City, where I live, people have started to clean the streets. This didn’t happen during Mubarak’s time.”

Young Egyptians ascribe everything positive to the revolution. When I said Egyptians were very friendly, the answer was: “Yes, but this has been since the revolution.”

The enthusiasm for the uprising and the NEW Egypt doesn’t seem to have waned in one month since President Mubarak resigned. Young volunteers in Tahrir Square substitute for the police. They direct traffic and check that nobody coming to join a demonstration carries a gun, and everybody respects them. Passionate public gatherings continue on Tahrir Square on Fridays, street vendors make good business selling Egyptian flags and cards with photos of those killed during the first days of the protests.

It’s easy to get carried away by this zest. What worries me is perhaps the fact that Egyptians expect everything will go easily and very fast.

When an old woman selling tissues approached us, Mostafa told me: “We are not helping these people anymore, because the government said it would.” I might lack the true belief, but a doubt passed through my mind about whether an efficient system to deal with this could have been set up in just a month.

Time to visit Egypt is NOW

6 Mar

With just few visitors, sightseeing is real pleasure

“A tourist!” yelled a middle-aged vendor at an Aswan market as  he ran to greet me. Walking through the market, I felt like Noah’s dove coming back to the Ark with an olive branch. I was a good news messenger, a sign that tourists are starting to return to Egypt.

“I haven’t had a tourist in my shop for a month,” he told me. ”And I have five people to feed.”

Egyptians tent to have big families. Seven, eight children is a normal.  This vendor had four daughters. Happy as he was with his girls, he hoped that he would add four boys to his family.

Tourism accounts for 13 per cent of Egypt’s GDP and employs over ten percent of the country’s population, according to World Travel and Tourism Council figures.

Many of Egyptians have second jobs in this sector. Sa’id works for a perfume company and at the same time as a licensed tourist guide. Ahmed is currently doing his military service, but having holidays he is selling Nubian handicrafts in his shop in Aswan.

“A salary of 500 Egyptian Pounds a month that you can earn in a company is not enough even to buy bread,” the vendor told me. “So people come from their work and have another job involving tourists. This allows them a decent living,” he said.

Tourist-less Egypt

Most of the foreign visitors left the country after the massive protests, leading to the resignation of President Husni Mubarak, had started in January. The British Foreign Office advised against “all but essential travel” to Egypt and some travel agencies took Egypt off offer.

In many hotels, I’ve been staying in, I was the only foreigner. The least affected seems to have been the Red Sea coast. Still, my friend Hamada left his shop in Sharm el-Sheikh and took indefinite holidays because there was nobody to sell to.  The hotel occupancy rate in this resort town dropped to eight per cent from 70 percent in mid-January, The New York Times on 23 February quoted head of the Egyptian Tourism Chamber of Commerce Ahmed al-Nahas as saying.

Luxor, in the Upper Egypt, is usually crammed with tourists hungry for ancient history sight-seeing. However, this time, I was completely alone in some of the tombs of pharaohs.

A ride on a horse-pulled carriage from the centre of Luxor to the Karnak temple costs 20-25 Egyptian pounds, after a bit of bargaining, the Rough Guide to Egypt says. I was offered the ride for five pounds. “There are no tourists here,” said Ahmed, the owner of the carriage. Despite the negative impact on his business, he seemed to be happy that the revolution took place. He showed me where houses were demolished to clear the way for excavation of the Avenue of Sphinx that once linked Luxor temple with Karnak. The money that the owners got as compensation was insufficient to buy a new property. As the revolution came, the people started to lay bricks where their houses used to be, until the local government paid them more. This wouldn’t have been possible during the time before the revolution. Mubarak’s police would have severely punished any such disobedience. “We were being humiliated before. Now we have our dignity back,” concluded Ahmed.

Tourists, come back!

Almost two weeks after the Foreign Office lifted its warning against the travel to Egypt, tourists are still wary. A friend wrote me in an email when she learnt I’m in the country: “Are you crazy?! Aren’t you watching the news?! Come home right now!”

Egyptians I’ve spoken to asked me to go back to Europe and tell people that Egypt is a safe place to visit. “Look, we have been without the police for more than a month and nothing has happened. No Christians have been killed as many predicted,” the already mentioned vendor said.

Health and safety in Egypt

2 Mar

It's very easy to get lost in Cairo streets without a good map

It seems like the British Foreign Office wants to scare tourists away from Egypt. Even without its advice “against all but essential travel” during the recent unrest that was lifted several days ago, the FCO’s website features lists of horrors waiting there for visitors:

  • There is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
  • Sexual assaults against tourists have occurred even in what were considered to be safe environments, such as hotels.
  • Road accidents are very common. Roads are poor, driving dangerous and traffic laws not enforced. Police estimate that accidents kill twice as many people in Egypt each year than in the UK.
  • Buses are dangerous.
  • Trains are dangerous.
  • Overcrowding and poor safety standards have led to several accidents on Red Sea ferries and Nile cruisers.
  • Cheap diving operators may not provide adequate safety standards.
  • A number of shark attacks have recently taken place in the Red Sea.
  • There were three serious hot air balloon accidents in Luxor in 2009.

True, Egyptian standards would hardly please British health and safety inspectors. On a bumpy railway from Luxor to Alexandria, waiters carry boiling tea in open glass cups above the heads of crowds. Shall I mention the open doors on moving trains? Or doors completely missing in some lifts?

Apart of series of nightmares before my travel to Egypt, I’ve got very little from the FCO website. Useful advice on how to minimize the risk is quite limited. Good one is to exercise extra caution during local holiday weekends and in general, near churches around the time of religious services.

Hello world!

11 Feb