Mexico's Obrador Won't Give Up Presidential Fight

Populist Antonio Manuel Lopez Obrador wants a recount in Mexico's presidential election. The official winner is conservative Felipe Calderon. What is the mood in Mexico City? Eduardo Garcia, founder of the site SentidoComun.com, speaks with Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Demonstrators in Mexico City expect to gather later today to protest the result of last Saturday's presidential race. An independent electoral body has called the race for the conservative national action party candidate, Felipe Calderon. Their tally shows that Mr. Calderon won the election by less than one percentage point. But under Mexican law, a candidate cannot be named president-elect until the federal election tribunal determines whether the votes were fairly cast. The populist candidate, the Democratic Revolutionary Party of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, claims that irregularities skewed the race. He says he wants every last vote recounted. Mr. Obrador will address his supporters this afternoon in the Zocalo.

Eduardo Garcia is the editor of an online financial Web site called SentidoComun.com. He joins us from Mexico City. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. EDUARDO GARCIA (Editor, SentidoComun.com): Thank you.

SIMON: And Mexico's election officials called the race on Thursday. Mr. Calderon's already taking congratulatory calls from around the world. What's the mood like in Mexico City? Is there a sense that the election, in fact, is over and decided?

Mr. GARCIA: No, the mood goes depending on who you speak to obviously. The camp of Felipe Calderon is delighted. They think they've got it. Obviously, on the other side, the mood is of certain disillusion, frustration, and in some cases anger, because they think that there might have been some irregularities, as you pointed out, that have not given - that have not been satisfied-ly resolved. So that camp, they feel like they still have a chance of overturning the results and change the outcome of the election.

SIMON: Now, recognizing that this is kind of unchartered territory, what are the odds of a recount once the electoral court takes up the election results?

Mr. GARCIA: It's - I do believe that there will be a certain amount of recount, I hope there is, just to clear the air and to solidify and legitimize the outcome that we had on election day. How far or how many polling stations will they recount, I don't know. Lopez Obrador wants every single one of them to be recounted. They - some of his people have claimed that there are 50,000 polling stations, about a third or a little bit more than a third, about 130,000 stations that were set up on election day that show irregularities. So - but they do have under Mexican electoral law to show that there is a case, a legal case to open those polling stations and start recounting again. I don't know how strong their cases are, we'll have to wait and see.

SIMON: Now, we'll note that election monitors from the European Union said that they didn't see widespread irregularities, and I wonder, among some people there, is there a Mexican Florida?

Mr. GARCIA: It was not just the Europeans that said so, all the political parties, including Mr. Lopez Obrador's party, some of their - some of the officials from his party on Sunday, on Election Day, they did say that everything had gone pretty smoothly, and they didn't see any sense of massive vote fraud or irregularities.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARCIA: I don't think it's similar to Florida. Obviously when you talk about a recount and things like that, it does look or sound the same. But in Mexico there is a very specific way of dealing with these issues. The electoral tribunal was set for that, and the electoral - and there are specific cases where you can open these polling station votes...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARCIA: ...and count them again. So it's just a matter of letting the system work itself out, so that we can figure what needs to be done.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARCIA: And what the outcome of the election will be in final terms.

SIMON: Now, Mr. Calderon has reportedly said that he's willing to invite Mr. Obrador into the new government. How do you see the likelihood of that happening?

Mr. GARCIA: Oh, I'd say very, very, very little. Since the campaign was pretty nasty in some level, and this was a first for Mexico - negative campaigning and all that - Mr. Calderon obviously needs to reach out, because he got elected by 35 percent of the vote, which isn't a real mandate. So obviously he needs to incorporate, if not Mr. Obrador himself...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GARCIA: ...some of the policies and some of the issues that he raised have to be addressed, in order to satisfy the large number of voters who voted for Lopez Obrador, and not Mr. Calderon. So I think it's natural that that's being said.

If it that had been the other way around, I would have suspected the same. As a matter of fact, on Sunday night, on Election Day, when both of them declared themselves the winners, they both reached out and said that they were going to try to conciliate and bring unity to the nation. And so it's the natural process. And in this case, because of the small margin that has characterized the race, it's natural for that to take place.

SIMON: Eduardo Garcia is the editor of Senti - forgive me, SentidoComun.com.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. GARCIA: My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

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