It was a terrific opportunity yesterday to observe Mexican democracy in action. And, I have to say that the INE (Instituto Nacional Electoral) did an incredible job. They did an incredible job of organizing the election. 

I would say more importantly than that, of working with Mexican civil society, and by civil society I do not mean NGOs (non-government organizations. I mean the people on the street who organized themselves to run the polling stations. The INE work hand in hand with them in terms of the training, providing them with the resources they need to actually execute a very well-run, fair, free, transparent election. 

I had the opportunity to travel around the southern part of Mexico City yesterday, visiting five different polling stations. I was there for the rapid count in one of them and it is an extraordinarily simple process but it is one that works very, very well. 

One of the biggest takeaways of this election is democracy does work in Mexico. I know that a lot of people have had doubts about the future of democracy. It is alive and well. The INE did a great job, as I said, but Mexican civic culture, the culture of democracy is alive and kicking. And there is great pride on the part of the Mexican people in their own elections. And a large part of that comes from the fact that they are so intimately involved in it. 

The fact that Mexico asks its own people to run elections creates a level of buy-in that is very unusual. But it also creates a sense of pride in the process. And I think that is a very, very, important factor moving forward.

The other thing I can tell you, from what we saw in all of the polling stations that we went to was that… I spoke to all of the party representatives who were there to observe the voting process and there was not one single complaint from any of them. And that was a little bit of a surprise because prior to the election we had had the chance to meet with all of the major political parties, with their secretaries general, and from certain quarters there was at least the hint and in some cases much more than that, the blunt statement that there were concerns about the impartiality of the democratic process. 

But, having seen it on the ground, the fact is that there were very, very, few anomalies and the anomalies that came out were small. It was the fact that perhaps there was an extra representative of the party there, more than should have been allowed. In some cases, and this is very common, of course, polling stations opened later than they were supposed to. But, in fact, the latest opening that I heard of was 8:45 A.M., which is sort of 45 minutes late. Whereas in 2018 you saw polling stations opening two hours late. 

So, the system worked incredibly well yesterday. And I think that is so important because it gives us faith in the result and it gives us faith in the strength and the endurance of Mexican democracy moving forward. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was made by Duncan Wood, vice president for strategy and new initiatives; senior advisor to the Mexico Institute. Wood made his remarks on a Mexico Institute webinar titled Ground Truth Briefing – Mexico’s Mid-Term Elections. Wood was in Mexico as an official elections observer for the 2021 mid-term elections. 

In addition to Wood, the panelists on the Mexico Institute’s Ground Truth Briefing – Mexico’s Mid-Term Elections webinar were:

  • Alexandra Zapata Hojel, Fellow, Future Tense Now: Expert, México ¿Cómo Vamos?, Former Adjunct Director General, Mexican Institute for Competitiveness.
  • Carlos Heredia, Global Fellow and Advisory Board Member, Mexico Institute; Associate Professor, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas. 
  • Pamela Starr, Former Public Policy Scholar; Fellow, Center on Public Diplomacy and Professor, University of Southern California.

The moderator was Andrew I. Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute.

Here is a podcast of the webinar:

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