Mexico Awaits Sept. 6 Ruling on Presidential Vote

A Mexican tribunal has until Sept. 6 to declare an official winner in the July presidential elections. But Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who stands to lose, may not let the dispute end there.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, re-imagining New Orleans. But first, conservative Felipe Calderon appeared to narrowly win Mexico's presidential election more than a month ago, but has leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has refused to concede. In fact, his supporters have paralyzed the heart of Mexico City as the deadline for court decision nears. Michael O'Boyle reports from Mexico City.

MICHAEL O'BOYLE reporting:

In Mexico City's Central Plaza, called Los Zocolo(ph), supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador greet their candidate for what has become a daily pep rally. For nearly a month, thousands of supporters and Lopez Obrador himself have made the Zocolo and the surrounding streets their home. A ramshackle tent city stretches from here to the financial district. Banners decry fraud, demand a vote-by-vote recount of the election and accuse President Vicente Fox of treason against democracy.

Lee Moreno(ph) is a 61-year-old retired public prosecutor from the state of Hidalgo. She says she has been here since the first day of the camps, and she says she will stay here as long as it takes.

Ms. LEE MORENO (Through translator): We are convinced our leader is the only one who can transform the country. We are ready to go as far as he wants us to go. We are sleeping out here on the ground, but we aren't getting tired. What we are tired of is so much injustice and poverty.

O'BOYLE: Calderon, the ruling party's candidate, appeared to narrowly win the July 2nd election with a narrow margin of around 240,000 votes, less than six-tenths of a percent. International observers said the vote appeared fair, but Lopez Obrador filed a series of legal challenges. These suits call for annulling votes in certain polling stations where there were alleged irregularities. If those votes are cast out, Lopez Obrador's lawyers say he will be the winner.

No one really knows what to expect from the court. It has never had to rule on a disputed presidential election before. The only thing certain is the deadline. The electoral court must name a new president or annul the election by September 6th. Calderon is calling for his opponent to respect the court's ruling. But Lopez Obrador seems to already expect an unfavorable decision. He has called for a mass demonstration in the capital's Central Plaza on September 15th and 16th, the days Mexico celebrates its War of Independence.

Traditionally, the president delivers a speech, known as El Grito(ph), on the night of September 15th in the Zocolo. On Friday, Fox said he wouldn't let the protest stop him. But if the president wants to celebrate his last Independence Day in office in style, he is going to face one tough crowd. For NPR News, I'm Michael O'Boyle in Mexico City.

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