Mexico’s electoral regulator said millions of signatures gathered to secure independents on the presidential ballot are unverifiable, disqualifying two candidates and providing a lift to leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
More than 3 million signatures couldn’t be verified, leaving left-leaning Armando Rios Piter and former Gov. Jaime Rodriguez off the ballot and handing former first-lady Margarita Zavala barely enough signatures to participate in July’s election, regulators said.
More political positions are up for grabs in July’s general elections than any in the nation’s history, and it’s the first time independents have had the chance to run for president. But allegations of massive, wide-scale forgery have thrown the question of allowing non-party contenders on the ballot into doubt. And with Zavala the only independent left, analysts say she’ll siphon support away from mainstream candidates polling second and third, leaving the leftist front-runner with an even larger lead than he already has.
“The fact that a left-leaning candidate like Rios Piter isn’t on the list anymore favors Lopez Obrador without a doubt,” said Jesus Cantu, a political scientist at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. “It has been a great deception for Mexican citizens to see that independent candidates are replicating the same practices that political parties have been criticized for.”
Before the two independents were excluded, only three presidential hopefuls had collected the requisite 866,593 signatures drawn from 17 of the county’s 31 states needed to qualify. While none had been polling well enough to contend, each was positioned to pull some support away from one of the three top candidates.
Rios Piter and Rodriguez — both now out of the race pending a final decision by the regulator on March 29 and any appeals the candidates make — were seen as draining support from Lopez Obrador. On the other hand, Zavala — who remains as a candidate — stands to become a spoiler for both the runner-up in polls, Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition, as well as Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling party, who’s polling third.
Washington-based Eurasia group said before the decision that if Zavala became the only independent, Lopez Obrador would be the “clear winner” in such an electoral scenario.
Mexico’s electoral regulator, known as INE, described the high percentage of unsubstantiated signatures — the majority of those collected — as resulting from fake voter IDs and invalid photo copies of real IDs. Both Rios Piter and Rodriguez said they’ll appeal the results, which will become formal March 29. They can take their cases to Mexico’s electoral tribunal.
Cantu found a silver lining in these disappointing results: He argued that the decision by the INE will strengthen its poor public image as a legitimate watchdog of the elections.