Hola, my American amigos! The 2016 Presidential Election is upon you, and the entire world is watching. I know this isn’t an easy choice, and that’s why I would like to share a few electoral lessons we have learned in Mexico that could come in handy right now.
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As I write this, millions of American voters are marching to the polls in one of the most controversial presidential elections in US history. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s you and not me voting.
I know the choice is difficult to make. As we say in Mexico, there are only two soups on the menu. And they’re both pretty awful.
But bad elections happen everywhere, all the time. We’ve had several of them in Mexico, and still we have managed to avoid the apocalypse. It’s true that whatever the outcome, it’s not the end of the world.
I want to tell you there are several hard-earned electoral lessons that Mexican citizens have learned, and I think you, my American amigos, should know about them. Trust me, you need to think about this.
Important Electoral Lessons From Mexico You Need To Know
An independent electoral authority is necessary
Mexico has had to endure two awful presidential elections in a row, in 2006 and then in 2012. Both times, the losing candidate claimed the election was rigged and questioned the validity of the results. It was tiresome, to say the least.
Although those both times there was political uncertainty, we managed to avoid a political collapse because in Mexico we have an independent electoral institute that calls the shots.
The National Electoral Institute (INE) is in charge of all the elections, local and federal. It registers voters, organizes elections, counts votes, declares winners, and resolves any claims of rigged elections in a special electoral court. The institute is run by citizens with no political affiliation and they’re appointed by the Mexican Congress.
In the event of a close election, the INE is the only institution that can resolve the issue. This means the results of a presidential election won’t ever end up in the hands of local court rulings.
I remember this happened in the US in 2000, and since it seems like this is a close race, it might happen again this year. Having local courts rule over election results is never the best way to resolve a controversy, and that’s why a national electoral authority is necessary. If there’s only one qualified authority to validate elections, a lot of the immediate uncertainty and unrest is avoided.
Even the best electoral system depends on who the candidates are
I’ve read that many American citizens believe there should be a multi-party system in the USA, and others believe the electoral college should go. Both seem like good ideas, but they’re no guarantee that things will be different.
In Mexico, there’s a multi-party system. There are currently 7 different political parties, and technically all of them can present a presidential candidate. In theory, there would be an option for everybody.
But the reality is a bit more disappointing. More choices don’t necessarily mean better options. In our last presidential election, there were 4 presidential candidates and not one of them represented a good option.
Also, most elections are dominated by only two parties because the other parties don’t have enough popular support or resources to win.
In the 2012 election, the two strongest candidates were also the two worst options. One represented the old, corrupt establishment, and the other was the tough-talking renegade who promised to shake up the old system. Voters hated either one or the other, or both. Does that sound familiar?
In the end, Mexico ended up with one of the most unpopular presidents in its history, and his term has been full of political and social turmoil. The only good news is that Mexican presidents can’t run for a second term.
It doesn’t really matter if there are two parties or more, or if votes are counted directly or indirectly. If the candidates are bad, then the election is bad.
As citizens, we have to participate more and support better candidates, not just expect parties to live up to expectations. A nation’s leaders are the reflection of its own people, and sometimes it’s an ugly reflection.
Voting makes a huge difference
I’ve also read that many American citizens are planning to sit out this election, and others don’t really believe their vote makes any difference. These are very sad news coming from a country is supposed to embody the spirit of democracy.
The truth is voting is crucial, and every single vote is extremely important.
In the Mexican presidential election in 2012, there were more people that didn’t vote than people who voted for the current president. That’s absolutely outrageous when I think about it.
That’s why the election results were controversial. Even though the electoral institute validated the election, the people simply couldn’t stomach the fact that such an unpopular candidate could’ve been elected.
And even if the other candidate had won, he would’ve been very unpopular just the same.
On the other hand, if more people had voted, the election would’ve been seen as more legitimate, the president would’ve started out on a better position, and we wouldn’t be living through this period of political and social unrest.
In fact, if all those non-voting citizens had voted, they could’ve elected a third-party candidate and this would be a completely different country. Those millions of missing votes could’ve changed the course of Mexican history.
I have no idea how many American citizens are planning to vote and how many aren’t, but I hope the first category is much larger than the second.
When more people vote, an election is automatically validated and it’s harder to claim it was rigged. It also guarantees a smooth transition of power and a more stable political and social environment.
It doesn’t matter who the people vote for. Voting is what matters. Voting sends out a powerful message that citizens are actively participating and that their voices will not be silenced.
The 2016 US Presidential Election
From an outsider’s point of view, Donald Trump seems like a crazy, bigoted cartoon character and it’s impossible to understand how he’s so close to winning the election.
Hillary Clinton seems to represent the old, corrupt establishment that nobody likes anymore, and it’s impossible to understand how she could be her party’s best bet to win the White House.
I understand this might sound troubling, but one of them will have to get elected and you have to be a part of that process.
Go out and vote, and get other people to vote too. It doesn’t matter who you vote for. Simply casting your vote is what really matters.
You can vote for Jill or Gary too, and you won’t be canceling out your vote. You’ll be voting and your voice will be heard.
I wish the best for all of you, my American amigos. God bless you and your great country.