Following widespread allegations of fraud in Mexico's elections, PublicServiceEurope.com interviews the volunteers in charge of overseeing individual polling stations. - their eyewitness reports paint a bleak picture of democracy in Latin America's economic powerhouse
Supporters of Mexico's president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto tried to bribe senior polling station staff to falsify the results of last week's elections, according to evidence collected by PublicServiceEurope.com
. Representatives of Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, offered polling station chairpersons cash payments if they would change voting records in order to ensure their leader won by a clear majority.
Some eyewitnesses say the amounts of offer were relatively small - in some cases less than €100 - although the attempted vote-rigging was widespread. One polling station chairwoman, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals, says she was singled out because she was responsible for taking the voting tally to the regional headquarters. "When we were finishing up, three people belonging to the PRI came up to me and offered 5,000 pesos (around €300) for me to change the votes in favour of the PRI," she tells PublicServiceEurope.com
. "It was already dark and there were only three of us left, the only thing that all of us wanted to do was go home after spending all day there."
The woman, who had volunteered to work in Monterrey in Mexico's industrial north, said she was not tempted by the bribe. "Of course I didn't even let them try to convince me," she says. "My role was polling station chair and it was my task to take the count to the headquarters, so I suppose that was why they chose me to approach".
Another more senior official responsible for overseeing a series of polling stations says PRI officials bribed all station chairpersons in her district. "I had the privilege of being the general polling station representative, which means that I was given ten polling stations," she explains. "Loads of money changed hands. The polling station staff are volunteers, they are not supposed to receive payment, and the PRI paid 1,500 pesos (around €90) to each staff member. In the polling stations that I checked there were sometimes two PRI representatives present."
Individual voters were also bribed, she claims. Voters were given voting slips that had already been filled in with the PRI candidate's name. They were told to bring back the blank voting card handed out at the polling station as proof they had voted. "You might ask yourself how they could hand out slips that had been pre-filled," the general representative continues. "Well that's easy - in the news it was reported that more than 11,000 voting slips had been lost."
Similar stories abound on social networks such as Facebook
. "My cousin in Mexico City went to vote and was told that she had already voted," says one Facebook
friend. "In my friend's district, they were paying 300 pesos (€18) to vote for the PRI," adds another. A video posted to YouTube
shows voters protesting outside what appears to be the PRI offices, saying they had voted as requested but had not received the promised payment.
Claims of fraud do not seem to have worried the European Union, however. President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz tweeted congratulations to Peña Nieto, in Spanish, on July 3. "The relationship with Latin America is fundamental for the EU," Shulz wrote. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton sent a similar message of congratulations via her spokesman.
Mexico's electoral authorities have announced a recount of more than half of all ballot boxes after finding "inconsistencies" in the official count, which showed Peña Nieto winning the elections with 38 per cent of the vote - ahead of left-wing opposition candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who officially won 32 per cent. López Obrador has accused the PRI of having bought "millions" of votes. Given the perennial reports of corruption at all levels of Mexican society, there are few people who believe the recount will change the final result. Similar allegations sparked mass protests when López Obrador lost a closely contested election in 2006. But the question is – why does Europe have nothing more to say about the alleged corruption and fraud?