10 per cent solution

Published : Sep 22, 2006 00:00 IST

RIGHT-WING PAN candidate Felipe Calderon. - THOMAS BRAVO/REUTERS

RIGHT-WING PAN candidate Felipe Calderon. - THOMAS BRAVO/REUTERS

The Mexican supreme electoral tribunal rules that there was no proof of fraud in the country's presidential elections.

THE ruling by Mexico's supreme electoral tribunal, the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (TEPJF), on August 29 could be a turning point in the country's politics. It said that the left-wing candidate in July's presidential elections, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, failed to prove his charge that the voting process was marked by widespread fraud. He alleged that there were serious irregularities at more than half of the polling stations and demanded a full recount of the 41 million votes cast. The ruling has removed the last legal roadblock for the right-wing Felipe Calderon to assume the presidency. The official tally put out by the Mexican authorities in the first week of July showed that Calderon had defeated Obrador by the narrowest of margins. Calderon, who was Energy Minister in the outgoing government, won by just 0.58 per cent, according to the final tally of the country's election commission.

Instead of spelling out its legal rationale, the TEPJF ordered the recount of votes in only 9 per cent of the polling stations. Obrador and his supporters rejected what they describe as the tribunal's "10 per cent solution". They have once again demanded "100 per cent democracy", the counting of all the votes cast in the July elections. They continue to insist that the ballot boxes were tampered with and that more than 200,000 votes meant for Obrador disappeared.

The Mexican establishment has ignored the huge protests that have continued uninterrupted since the results were announced in early July. Huge crowds supporting Obrador have brought life to a virtual standstill in the centre of Mexico City, the capital. A rally on July 30 attracted more than 2.5 million people from all over the country. To add insult to injury, the TEPJF also ruled that Obrador could not prove that the errors in the counting process had affected his chances more than that of his main opponent. The judges admitted in open court that they had ordered the votes from many polling stations annulled for irregularities, but continued to insist that this did not have any impact on the final outcome of the elections.

Obrador and his supporters have refused to acknowledge defeat. They were quick to reject the ruling. Obrador, who had a successful stint as Mayor of Mexico City, described the ruling as a conspiracy to rob him of his victory. He used strong words to justify his position on the issue: "Today the electoral tribunal decided to validate the fraud against the citizens' will and decided to back the criminals who robbed us of the presidential elections. With this decision, the constitutional order is broken and the road is opened for an usurper to occupy the presidency through a coup d'etat." Obrador went to the extent of alleging that the seven judges of the TEPJF were bribed by the ruling National Action Party (PAN) of President Vincente Fox. Even before the Mexican court had pronounced its judgment, Fox had told a German paper that Calderon was going to be the next President of Mexico.

Obrador has now called for a national assembly to be held on September 16 to decide on the future course of action "to save democracy". There is a strong possibility of the "people's assembly" anointing him President of an "alternative" government of Mexico. Plans are afoot to have an alternative "swearing-in" ceremony on December 1 - the date Calderon is due to formally assume the presidency.

There has been a similar precedent in Mexican history. In the latter half of the 19th century, Benito Juarez was the "unofficial" President who fought against an usurper, the Emperor Maximilian, who was installed by a French invasion force. Juarez ultimately succeeded in driving out the invaders and executing the French puppet ruler. Obrador's supporters have already started talking about an "official" government run by Calderon and the "legitimate" government run by Obrador. "We do not recognise Felipe Calderon as President, nor any officials he appoints, nor any acts carried out by his de facto government," Obrador said after the court ruling.

Some of Obrador's supporters, however, want to be cautious. Cuahtemoc Cardenas, one of founders of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) on whose ticket Obrador ran for the presidency, has urged all parties to abide by the TEPJF's decision. Cardenas was robbed of the presidency in 1988 elections when the then ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), resorted to blatant fraud and manipulation. Many of the PRD's supporters have not forgiven Cardenas for giving up the presidency without a fight. They now urge Obrador to keep the momentum of the protests going. The PRD Senate leader, Carlos Navarette, said that his party's legislators will not have any dialogue with the government. The PRD has the second biggest bloc of legislators in the National Assembly after the PAN. "We will never forget that the leader and director of the Mexican people's action and the Left is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador," Navarette said.

Obrador ran for the presidency on the pledge to run a government that would help the poor, oppose privatisation and make the news media more "truthful and objective". The Mexican media, controlled by big business and pro-American interests, have run a shrill campaign against Obrador and the PRD. While leading the protests against rigged elections, the left-wing leader has stressed repeatedly that the people of Mexico deserve a more humane and egalitarian society.

As he girds up for the struggle ahead, Obrador received a political boost when the PRD candidate for Governor in the southern State of Chiapas won against great odds. Juan Sabines, the PRD candidate, defeated his rival from the PRI. The PRI candidate had the support of the PAN. It is evident that the two establishment parties, the PAN and the PRI, are joining hands in a determined effort to stop Obrador from assuming power at the national level.

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