100,000 protest Mexican election results


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

100,000 protest Mexican election results

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on a huge crowd 
of supporters to keep protesting while he pursues a legal challenge of Mexico's 
disputed presidential vote count, and to help him prevent "a backward step for 

The fiery, silver-haired leftist said he would begin presenting his allegations 
to the nation's electoral court on Sunday, requesting that all 41 million votes 
cast be recounted to expose fraud he believes cost him the election.

"We are going to ask that they clean up the elections. We are going to ask that 
they count all the votes, vote-by-vote, poll-by-poll," Lopez Obrador said, 
calling on the army to protect the integrity of every ballot box. (Watch as 
Lopez Obrador speaks to the massive crowd -- 1:48)

He also called for marches nationwide, beginning Wednesday and converging on 
Mexico City for another rally on Sunday July 16.

And he provoked groans of disappointment from the packed crowd in Mexico City's 
central plaza when he told them not to block highways.

"This has been and goes on being a peaceful movement," he said. "We are not 
going to fall for any provocations."

The likelihood of continuing demonstrations suggests just how difficult it will 
be for the ruling party's Felipe Calderon to unify Mexicans, many of whom 
believe the nation has yet to overcome the decades of institutional corruption 
and fraud that kept its leaders in power.

Lopez Obrador took direct aim at President Vicente Fox, accusing him of 
conspiring with Mexico's autonomous elections agency, known as IFE, to engineer 
a victory for the ruling party's Calderon.

Lopez Obrador said Fox had betrayed the Mexicans whose outrage over repeated 
election fraud swept him into power in 2000 after 71 years of single-party rule 
by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

"He dedicated himself to attacking us and ended up being a complete traitor of 
democracy," Lopez Obrador said. "And if that weren't enough, the IFE, which 
should act with imparciality, turned into the pawn of the party of the right."

Lopez Obrador claimed earlier Saturday that there were more irregularities in 
last Sunday's balloting than under the PRI.

Election monitors from the European Union said they found no irregularities in 
the count.

Legal challenges were built into Mexico's elections process in recent years to 
help ensure clean elections, so Calderon can't be declared president-elect until
the electoral court weighs allegations of fraud or unfair campaign practices. 
The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

The stakes are high as Calderon and Lopez Obrador appeal to the court of public 

Lopez Obrador remains convinced he won the elections. He has millions of 
extremely devoted followers who believe only he can help Mexico's poor and 
downtrodden, and he views street protests as an effective means of pressuring 
the government and the courts.

Election officials say Calderon, of Fox's National Action Party, beat Lopez 
Obrador by less than 244,000 votes out of 41 million ballots -- or a margin of 
about 0.6 percent.

Calderon says the vote was clean and has taken congratulatory phone calls from 
U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of Canada, Spain and Colombia, 
among others, despite Lopez Obrador's plea for foreign governments to hold off 
on recognizing the result.

The crowd in the Zocalo Saturday night would accept nothing less than victory 
for the silver-haired former Mexico City mayor.

"We are never going to recognize this man (Calderon)," said Apolinario 
Fernandez, 37, a teacher from Lopez Obrador's home state of Tabasco in the 
southeast. "If he wants, let him govern in the north for the rich, but not in 
the south."

Calderon's strength is in Mexico's industrialized north while most of Lopez 
Obrador's supporters come from Mexico City and poor southern states. Many 
traveled all night to arrive at the demonstration, joining a sea of yellow, the 
color of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party.

"We are ready to do whatever is necessary," said Belasario Cruz, 32, a farmer 
from Tabasco. "We are tired of the rich having everything and the poor having 

There were no immediate reports of arrests or violence at the protests.

Political analyst Oscar Aguilar predicted that Lopez Obrador will never concede 

"Once the election results are certified, he will open a permanent campaign of 
criticizing the government," Aguilar said.

Lopez Obrador claims a manual recount would confirm that hundreds of thousands 
of votes for him remain uncounted, miscounted or voided. The law allows such a 
recount only for specific polling places where credible evidence of 
irregularities exist. The leftist's supporters say that applies to at least 
50,000 of the approximately 130,000 polling places.

If Lopez Obrador appears too radical, he risks hurting his party and its chances
in the next presidential elections in 2012. If he appears too moderate, he risks
disappointing his core supporters.

"His political stock would increase greatly for 2012" if he can concede defeat 
gracefully, Aguilar said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not 
be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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