Mexico Election Dispute May Escalate


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Mexico Election Dispute May Escalate
Oxford Analytica 08.04.06, 6:00 AM ET

The occupation of main avenues in the center of Mexico City marks a significant 
change in the strategy of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is seeking a recount 
of last month's presidential election. According to official results, he lost 
narrowly to Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party (PAN).

Lopez Obrador and his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) had been holding 
periodic massive rallies in Mexico City:

-- Three were held on July 8, 16 and 30.

-- The aim apparently was to force the Federal Electoral Tribunal (Trife) to 
order a recount.

-- At the most recent demonstration, Lopez Obrador announced that he would 
establish permanent camp in the center of Mexico City and asked his supporters 
to do likewise along the main avenues nearby.

Failure to influence the Trife or convince Calderon to support the recount 
appears to have provoked the change of strategy.

In a city where serious traffic jams are common, the blockade has caused 
enormous disruption. Nonetheless, the Mexico City government, which the PRD 
heads, has supported it. The trouble caused to commuters, and business losses, 
have affected negatively support for Lopez Obrador. However, this appears to be 
a price he is willing to pay.

The blockade is unlikely to pressure the Trife to rule a certain way, though it 
may accelerate its deliberations. Lopez Obrador's main aim may be to annul the 
presidential election:

-- The Trife could annul the election on the grounds that it took place under 
unfair conditions. Congress would appoint an interim president. A new election 
would be called in 2007 or 2008.

-- The federal government may be forced to break the blockade, creating 
governability problems, which would prevent Calderon taking office.

The reaction of the administration of President Vicente Fox has been subdued. 
The federal government appears to be seeking not to escalate the conflict:

-- Fox has the right to appoint and dismiss heads of the Mexico City police and 
justice department. He could opt to do this to put them under his control and 
eliminate the blockade.

-- However, he probably is waiting for the Trife ruling. If it proclaims 
Calderon president-elect, he would act with legal weight behind him.

Calderon has pursued a similar approach, condemning the blockade but not 
demanding concrete action to remove it.

Lopez Obrador may escalate the conflict, for example:

-- calling for additional blockades in other, even more important, avenues, or 
on the motorways that connect Mexico City with the rest of the country; or

-- closing down the airport.

Such actions probably would elicit a reaction from the federal government. 
However, they would risk fragmenting Lopez Obrador's support among the PRD 

Another option that would cause governability problems, and one some senior PRD 
figures openly have suggested, would be for party members elected to the Chamber
of Deputies and Senate to reject their seats. The law clearly states that to 
install the new Congress at least half its members need to be present:

-- The PRD and its coalition allies hold only 160 seats in the Chamber of 
Deputies and 36 in the Senate, far from the number needed to stop the 
legislature opening on Sept. 1.

-- Many coalition members probably would reject the instruction and take their 
seats, causing serious fragmentation.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely that this course of action would be followed.

Lopez Obrador's more radical approach signals that he is willing to go to 
considerable lengths to have a chance of obtaining the presidency. By remaining 
passive, the federal government has avoided violent confrontation. However, the 
PRD candidate may go much further. There is a risk of serious violence.

To read an extended version of this article, log on to Oxford Analytica's Web 

Oxford Analytica is an independent strategic-consulting firm drawing on a 
network of more than 1,000 scholar experts at Oxford and other leading 
universities and research institutions around the world. For more information, 
please visit To find out how to subscribe to the firm's 
Daily Brief Service, click here.

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