One day about 27 years ago, I was riding on the campaign bus with Miguel de la Madrid, the shoo-in candidate as next president of Mexico. His party, PRI — the Institutional Revolutionary Party — controlled the country from the end of the Mexican revolution until the year 2000.
De la Madrid was more interested in watching a soccer match – piped onto the bus via satellite–than in talking to a foreign correspondent. His victory, unlike the game, was a foregone conclusion. He looked up at me every once in a while when I asked a question. It was hard to get him to focus, but at one point I asked, “Do you expect to win by a wide margin?”
He turned to me from the screen and with a smirk said that he expected to win “about 71.3 percent” of the vote. He then returned to the soccer match.
The election was held about a month later — what a surprise, he guessed down to the decimal point!
The boilerplate in our news stories back then used to say something like “The Institutional Revolutionary Party has monopolized Mexican politics since 1929.” Code words for the obvious: They were rigging the elections.
This of course is an echo of what’s happening in Iran these days, where the members of another revolutionary party look like they’re trying to rig the elections too.
In the case of Mexico, they used to say that the government could get away with the fraud because people were afraid of a return to the bloodshed they suffered during their revolution. More than one million people died in the Mexican revolution. The PRI, to its credit, peacefully accepted electoral defeat in 2000 and now is in the opposition.
Where is the tipping point when people in any country — fundamentalist, socialist, conservative, liberal, red state, blue state — won’t accept the results of a fraudulent election? The balance involves fighting for freedom and democracy on the one hand, while knowing that uncertainty, even violence lie ahead on the road to get there.
Find our complete coverage of the Iranian elections at Voices of Iran.