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International election observers helped ‘save Mexico’

BEN COWLES reports from Mexico City

BRITISH election observers in Mexico have praised the “professionalism” and “efficiency” of electoral staff during Sunday’s vote, which saw leftwinger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador win the presidency by a landslide.

There were some reports of possible irregularities on the day itself, though they were relatively few in number, they told a press conference organised by Mexico’s Scholar and Citizen Network for Democracy (RUCD).

The elections were the bloodiest in Mexican history, with more than 130 candidates and party workers killed during the campaign and journalists targeted.

There were fears of widespread fraud and corruption. Mexican election authorities suggested at least 20,000 ballots had been stolen across the country as polling began.

But Sheffield University lecturer Dr Peter Watt, spokesman for the observers, told the Star: “We did see some irregularities. Though we concluded that on the whole they were fairly minor.

“There were some reports of paying for votes but it was all second-hand information that we weren’t able to verify.

“The main complaint was of polling stations opening late. We had 11 groups go out and view several polling stations and all of those opened late. Some of those were only 20 minutes late, others were up to 90 minutes.

“Whether that’s deliberate or just a lack of organisation, the result is the same. It means people are denied a vote because they have to go to work and so on.”

Father Alejandro Solalinde, an Obrador-supporting Catholic priest who founded the Brothers on the Path shelter in Oaxaca to help central American migrants travelling to the US, said the international observers had “helped save Mexico.”

He told the Star: “I’ve spent the last three months in Europe and the response to the human rights crisis here from the governments there has been very weak.

“I’m sure that the international observers who came here had a greater impact on the election than any official delegation that might have been sent here.

“The presence of the foreign observers invited here by the RUCD shows us that the international community is concerned for Mexico."

Mr Obrador won 53 per cent of the vote and is due to assume the presidency on December 1.

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