The ruling Morena party’s internal elections were marred by violence and other irregularities for a second consecutive day on Sunday, but President López Obrador nevertheless characterized the democratic exercise as a success.
Morena members went to the polls Saturday and Sunday to elect party officials across 300 districts. Some of the successful candidates will take a seat in Morena’s National Congress, the party’s most important decision-making body.
Incidents of violence, vote-buying and acarreo — in which voters were not only given an incentive to vote for certain candidates but also transported to polling places — sullied the elections, according to various reports.
Violence led to the suspension of voting at polling places in some parts of the country, such as Gómez Palacio, Durango, where there was a clash Sunday between supporters of opposing candidates. The newspaper Reforma reported that chairs were thrown, ballots were burned and one man was hit with a baseball bat during the confrontation.
Ballots and/or voting booths were also burned at polling places in some other states such as México state and Chiapas.
Vote buying and acarreos were reported in several states including San Luis Potosí, Morelos, Guanajuato and Querétaro.
In Morelos, Governor Cuauhtémoc Blanco was accused of supplying government buses to transport Morena members to polling places so that they could cast a vote for his brother. In Guanajuato, voters were taken to polling places in taxis, buses and Uber rideshare vehicles, El Financiero reported. Their votes were allegedly “bought” for packed lunches, groceries, or cash — 1,500 pesos or about US $75 — in some cases.
Similar incentives — which were widely used by the once-omnipotent Institutional Revolutionary Party — were on offer in other states: social media posts showed that some accareados — as herded voters are known — carried slips of paper to remind them who to vote for.
Morena party members also denounced other irregularities such as the failure to guarantee a secret ballot, inadequate checking of voters’ credentials and the exclusion of designated scrutineers.
John Ackerman, a Morena supporter, academic and husband of former cabinet minister Irma Sandoval, denounced “shameless acarreo and voter pressure” in Coyoacán, a Mexico City borough. “Enormous disappointment. We’re gathering an unbelievable volume of evidence,” he tweeted Saturday.
In another Twitter post on Monday, Ackerman said the Morena National Convention would put together a “fraud expo to demonstrate that the irregularities … weren’t ‘isolated’ but generalized.”
He also said that the national convention was committed to “cleaning up the process” used to elect party officials.
Alejandro Rojas, an advisor to Morena Senate leader Ricardo Monreal, described the internal elections as “the fraud Olympics.”
“We saw all the practices of coercion and vote buying as well as manipulation, deceit [and] the rude and outrageous mobilization of beneficiaries of the [government’s] social programs,” he said in an interview.
On Twitter, Rojas called the elections “a carnival of acarreo and simulation” and asserted that Morena had “opened the doors to the scourges of politics: patronage, self-interest and cronyism.”
“This is the first step toward a new state party and an anti-democratic and authoritarian regression,” he added.
For his part, Morena national president Mario Delgado said Saturday that where there was evidence of acarreo, election results would be annulled. Old practices of other parties won’t be allowed in Morena, he said.
López Obrador – Morena’s founder – accepted that the elections were marred by acarreo and other bad “practices,” but rejected claims of widespread irregularities.
“[The irregularities occurred] at very few polling places. It wasn’t generalized,” he told reporters at his regular news conference on Monday. “It wasn’t as the opposition would have liked.”
AMLO highlighted that some 2.5 million people cast a vote and declared that the elections were a good democratic exercise. “The participation was massive for an internal election,” he added.
The president also responded to criticism from opposition political figures, asserting that the irregularities reported over the weekend were nothing compared to those that have plagued their own parties.