Professor Nibaldo Galleguillos ( Political Science), leads delegation to Mexico as an electoral observer


The July 2 election in Mexico was a great advance in Mexico's quest for democracy. Right-wing candidate Vicente Fox was elected president, ending 71 years of supremacy for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

From June 25 to July 8, McMaster University Associate Professor of Political Science, Nibaldo Galleguillos, lead a team of five Canadian academics from York, Guelph and McMaster universities to observe the electoral process. Professor Galleguillos has been attending elections in Mexico since 1991; an important area of his research has been in regards to democratic development in Third World countries, focusing on electoral reforms and elections.

There were more than 873 international electoral observers attending the election. Galleguillos' delegation was one of several Canadian organizations to attend, including Common Borders, Common Frontiers, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, the Canadian Council for the Americas, as well as Canadian Embassy personnel. Observers were split into two groups, with one group travelling to the more heavily militarized area of the State of Puebla while the other group, including Galleguillos, travelled to the Northern Sierra area of the state. In this predominantly indigenous community, the group had the opportunity to observe polling stations throughout the entire day of the election.

In an interview with the National Post, Professor Galleguillos noted that “Indigenous voters in the Nahua Indian community of San Juan Tahiti showed their marked ballots to PRI officials. This may be a way of showing their allegiance for favours done by the PRI.”

Some serious irregularities still persist in rural and indigenous areas of Mexico. Professor Galleguillos explains that the most serious “is the fact that the vote is still not a secret individual act, as it is in the urban parts of the country. Here, our estimate was that more than fifty percent of the voters openly showed their preferences, in a majority for the ruling party's candidate, by failing to fold the ballots before depositing them in the ballot box. Whether for cultural or other reasons, voters in these areas can only relate to the ruling party.”

The defeat of the PRI could be seen as Mexicans wanting to punish the ruling party for its failure to improve their economic conditions: almost forty percent (some 40 million Mexicans) live below the poverty line. Professor Galleguillos believes the new president will face serious challenges, however, because he did not win a majority in either of the two chambers of Congress, nor did his party win the mayoralty of Mexico City, the world's most populated city.

“The July 2, 2000 elections were a great advance in Mexico's quest for democracy. A succession of electoral reforms, dating to the late 1970s, and accelerated during the 1990s, contributed to make this one of the freer, fairest, and cleanest elections in the country's history” notes Professor Galleguillos, and he concludes, “Mexico has made significant strides towards democracy. As Canadians, we look forward to the day when elections such as the one on July 2 become a common occurrence and democracy establishes firm and definitive roots.”