Research Handbook on Transparency
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Research Handbook on Transparency

Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn

In the last two decades transparency has become a ubiquitous and stubbornly ambiguous term. Typically understood to promote rule of law, democratic participation, anti-corruption initiatives, human rights, and economic efficiency, transparency can also legitimate bureaucratic power, advance undemocratic forms of governance, and aid in global centralization of power. This path-breaking volume, comprising original contributions on a range of countries and environments, exposes the many faces of transparency by allowing readers to see the uncertainties, inconsistencies and surprises contained within the current conceptions and applications of the term.
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Chapter 8: When transparency meets politics: the case of Mexico’s electoral ballots

John Mill Ackerman


The refusal to provide citizen access to the electoral ballots used in Mexico’s hotly contested 2006 presidential elections is an excellent case study of how public authorities can use the “rule of law” to subordinate transparency to political concerns. Mexico theoretically has one of the most highly developed access-to-information regimes and systems of electoral law in the world. But in this case, the sophisticated system of specialized institutional oversight and checks and balances was used to nullify citizen rights and violate due process rather than to guarantee them. If in such a context the authorities are willing to bend the law in order to protect political concerns from the risks of “overexposure,” the risks are even higher in other regimes where the legal framework for accountability is less highly developed, as is the case in most of the so-called “developed” world. This historic case stands as a warning against complacency in the advancement of freedom of information (FOI) laws throughout the globe and as a cautionary tale in favor of including direct citizen control and participation mechanisms in oversight bodies and procedures. The 2006 Mexican presidential election was decided by only 0.56 percent, or 233,000 of approximately 41 million votes cast.

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