Mexican Court Nixes Leftist Candidate's Challenge

Mexico's top electoral court on Monday threw out legal complaints by left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who alleges July's presidential election was fraudulent. The move solidifies the victory of conservative candidate Felipe Calderon.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

Mexico's top electoral court has ruled there was no widespread fraud in last month's presidential election. The court did not declare the conservative candidate Felipe Calderon president, but it's expected to do so soon.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador still does not accept the courts decision. He vows to continue street protest. Michael O'Boyle reports from Mexico City.

MICHAEL O'BOYLE reporting:

In a unanimous decision, the Federal Electoral Tribunal dealt Leftist Candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador another legal blow Monday. Chief Justice Leonel Castillo said Lopez Obrador's claims of a massive fraud were completely unfounded.

The magistrates issued the results of a partial recount of the July 2nd vote and ruled on 375 legal challenges. Justice Alfonsina Navarro said the recount only uncovered isolated errors.

Justice ALFONSINA NAVARRO (Federal Electoral Tribunal, Mexico): (Through Translator): Only in some polling places did the result differ from the initial count that was carried out.

O'BOYLE: In the initial count, Calderon won by around 240,000 votes out of 42 million cast. Yesterday's decision annulled tens of thousands of ballots for both candidates, but it only narrowed the margin by a little more than 4,000 votes.

Lopez Obrador called the courts decision a disgrace, but he had expected an unfavorable ruling. Speaking Sunday, the former mayor of Mexico City called on supporters to form a government in resistance if Calderon is declared president.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Mr. ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR (Former Mayor, Mexico City; Candidate for Presidency, Mexico): (Through Translator) We don't have any respect for their institutions, because they are not the people's institutions. We're going to create our own government under the authority given to us by the constitution that says the power resides in the people.

O'BOYLE: The dispute over the presidential election is threatening the stability of Mexico's fragile democracy. President Vicente Fox will present his last state of the union address on September 1st.

The congress has been surrounded by thousands of federal troops to prevent protests. Some fear the lockdown could spark a violent confrontation with protestors. On Monday, Fox called on Mexicans to stop those who want to derail Mexico's future with threats and blackmail.

Lopez Obrador's protests have alienated many Mexicans who feel he is using strong-arm tactics. But many others feel Fox's government has not improved their lot, and they may continue to back Lopez Obrador.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of running water)

O'BOYLE: Seventy-year-old Florinda Cruz(ph) washes dishes from a makeshift kitchen in the street amid the encampments of Lopez Obrador's supporters along Reforma avenue. Cruz bristles at the idea common in the local press that Lopez Obrador's party is paying supporters to be here.

Ms. FLORINDA CRUZ: (Through Translator) We aren't here because we are being paid. We are here of our own free will. Lopez Obrador has given aid to the elderly and to single mothers. He helped me get subsidized housing. No other politician ever did anything for us before.

O'BOYLE: This dispute has heightened the deep social tensions in Mexico between the poor masses and Mexico's elite and middle class. If Calderon is declared president, he will face an enormous task to diffuse the political crisis.

The electoral court must still rule on charges that the election itself was carried out under unfair conditions. Lopez Obrador alleges the ruling party abused its incumbency during the campaign and exceeded spending limits. Judges must rule on those claims and declare a president before a September 6th deadline. For NPR News, I'm Michael O'Boyle in Mexico City.

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