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Guzman wins nomination in shambolic PAN primary

February 11, 2012

In a controversial, chaotic and contested primary election, Fernando Guzman Perez has won the nomination of the incumbent National Action Party (PAN) for governor of Jalisco.

With results in from 120 of the 125 municipalities, Guzman won 39.35 percent of the vote, Hernan Cortes claimed 31.99 percent and former Guadalajara mayor Alfonso Petersen received just 28.35 percent. However, Petersen has refused to recognize the outcome and has raised a legal challenge over the organizational problems he says dissuaded people from voting.

It was supposed to be the most democratic primary the PAN has conducted in Jalisco, with the party holding an unprecedented election open to the general public and not just party members (they voted for the party’s presidential candidate at the same time). Party president Miguel Ibarra hailed it as a sample “of the democracy that we cherish in the PAN, because we do not simulate elections like other political parties do.”

If this really was representative of panista democracy, it did not reflect well on the party. The election was a badly managed mess, in which turnout was low, voters experienced long lines, presidential candidates were missing from certain ballot papers, and even the organizers seemed unaware of who was allowed to vote.

From the outset the PAN experienced major problems across the state, with delays caused by the non-arrival of many polling officials. Both Guzman and Petersen complained about the delay in opening booths and slow voting, while Cortes even spoke of the alleged buying of votes in exchange for appliances in the municipality of Casimiro Castillo.

Guzman described the process in Santa Ana Tepetitlan, where he went to cast his vote, as “a disaster,” and vowed to complain to the Electoral Commission. After abandoning a long queue of stationary voters, he later returned but was unable to vote for a PAN presidential candidate, because their names did not appear on the ballot papers.

Elsewhere, two mayoral candidates in Puerto Vallarta condemned the disorganization of the process, while in Tlajomulco the poll station opened late, with voters waiting up to three hours to cast their ballots.

In Lagos de Moreno, PAN officials dispensed with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) roll and allowed anyone to vote without being registered. At the other extreme, after waiting in line for two hours, voters in Guadalajara’s Hermosa Provincia neighborhood found themselves in a shouting match with officials who were unaware that non-party members could vote.

In the entire state there were just 267 ballot boxes at 144 different polling stations manned by 1,300 officials. The number of ballot boxes had been raised from 242 after complaints from the candidates, but they were still not satisfied by the meager increase of 25.

Only around 30 percent of the 400,500 available ballot papers were used, with under 120,000 people voting across Jalisco’s 125 municipalities. As the initial results came in on Sunday evening, jubilant Guzman supporters gathered at Guadalajara’s Minerva glorieta to celebrate his victory.

Guzman, 55, served twice as deputy in the local congress and once as a federal legislator. He worked as state secretary general in the current PAN administration prior to running for governor. A devout Catholic with 11 children, he is a close friend of Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, the controversial former archbishop of Guadalajara.

Late Sunday night, Cortes, the 35-year-old former mayor of Tlaquepaque, congratulated Guzman for his triumph and thanked supporters for helping him reach second place.

Having held a commanding lead in the opinion polls, Peterson, 51, refused to recognize Guzman’s victory and is contesting the result of the poorly organized and ill-attended elections. Peterson presented a legal challenge to the State Electoral Commission “in defense of democracy,” but having received no response he is now waiting for the courts to resolve the matter.

A former state Health Secretary and the mayor of Guadalajara from 2007 to 2009, Peterson argued that “a large quantity of Jalisco residents” decided against voting upon realizing they might have to wait in line for hours. However, while the election was inarguably shambolic, it was settled by a wide margin and there is no reason why low voter turnout would have specifically hurt Peterson more than the other candidates.

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