Salinas OKd as Mexico’s New President
After a grueling, 19-hour debate, the federal Chamber of Deputies on Saturday ratified the election of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and declared him president-elect of Mexico.
Leftist opposition deputies marched out of the chamber before the morning vote, chanting their “total repudiation of electoral fraud.” Members of the rightist opposition cast their ballots “against the dictatorship,” then left deputies of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party to celebrate their victory alone.
The 500-member chamber, reduced by the walkout, voted 263 to 85 to certify Salinas. The total for the PRI, as Salinas’ party is universally known, included three deputies elected by the leftist National Democratic Front who had defected to the PRI.
Cheering PRI deputies waved Mexican flags and photographs of Salinas as chamber president Miguel Montes Garcia announced passage of the resolution ratifying the disputed outcome of the July 6 election.
Then, haggard from the marathon session, the PRI deputies were bused to Salinas’ campaign office in the southern San Angel district of Mexico City to offer their congratulations to the future president.
Salinas, 40, a Harvard-trained economist, will be sworn in Dec. 1 before the congress. His party has ruled Mexico for nearly 60 years.
“I ratify my pledge to govern for all Mexicans, regardless of their party, in an environment of freedom,” Salinas told reporters after receiving the handshakes and embraces of the PRI deputies.
He said his ratification was carried out “with open and free debate.”
The ruling party originally had hoped to persuade some of the 237 opposition deputies to vote for Salinas, but when it became clear they would not, the PRI opted to get through the certification as quickly as possible. The process legally could have lasted two months, but the PRI rejected opposition efforts to have the July 6 ballots recounted.
Question of Legitimacy
Several PRI deputies expressed concern about the impact that the relative narrowness of the certification vote might have on Salinas’ legitimacy and room to maneuver during his six-year term. But Salinas said his ratification by the PRI majority was legitimate.
“They were all deputies, and each one represents the entire nation,” the president-elect said.
Secretary General Manuel Camacho Solis of the PRI, one of Salinas’ closest advisers, said he was pleased with the outcome of the vote and the fact that one of the tensest periods in modern Mexican politics did not turned violent.
“We had a situation where the real problem could have been a stalemate in the election and that did not happen. . . . We had total unity in the party and enormous political coordination,” Camacho said.
For its part, the National Democratic Front had hoped it could persuade PRI deputies to vote against ratification. The front, a coalition that backed presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, himself a leftist defector from the PRI, has called a demonstration for Wednesday to protest Salinas’ certification.
Most Disputed Election
This has been the most disputed presidential election in the history of Mexico. According to official results, Salinas won 50.74% of the vote, the lowest ever for a PRI candidate; Cardenas officially won 31.06%, and Manuel J. Clouthier of the conservative National Action Party got 16.81%. Both opposition candidates assert that the results were rigged.
“This is the consummation of a technical coup d’etat, " said Octavio Moreno, a Democratic Front deputy. “This was not a military coup, but the way they took power was illegitimate.”
National Action deputy Elias Villegas Torres explained that his party’s deputies did not join the leftists in boycotting the certification vote because they wanted to go on the record as opposing the election.
“It is very different to vote against something than to leave. Our bloc’s position is very clear. There is no making a mistake about it,” he said.
All sides appeared exhausted after the three-day permanent session of the chamber that began Thursday and broke down several times with protests and disarray. Fifty-seven speakers had their say during the final session, which began at 3 p.m. Friday and ended after the vote at 10 a.m. Saturday.