Court President Backs Calderon Win in Mexico

The president of Mexico's top electoral court recommends upholding Felipe Calderon's win in the July presidential election, rejecting a challenge from the candidate from the left, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Mexico has been in turmoil since the election — with Lopez Obrador charging that massive fraud aided Calderon.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Mexicans today will be formally told who is their next president. A special election tribunal will declare the president elect. Mexico has been in turmoil since the July 2nd election, with the candidate from the left - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - charging that massive fraud gave his rival, Felipe Calderon, the lead. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us now from a very stormy Mexico City.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: You might be able to hear it's pouring outside my door. Let's hope it's not an omen.

MONTAGNE: Is there any doubt Calderon will be declared the winner?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is very little doubt, Renee, that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's people have already conceded defeat in a press conference yesterday. It's pretty much understood what's going to happen. Technically, the tribunal could take the decision to annul the entire election, but that's considered extremely unlikely.

MONTAGNE: And will this spell the end of the turmoil that's gripped Mexico over the past two months? It doesn't sound like it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, far from it. There's a real poisonous atmosphere in Mexico right now. You know, just a few days ago, sitting president Vicente Fox was stopped from giving last state of the union address in congress by members of Lopez Obrador's party. And they say they will block the inauguration of Calderon too if it comes to that. Lopez Obrador is calling for protests to continue. He says he will form an alternative government, and he's chosen to announce that government on the 16th of September in the same place and on the same day the Mexican military celebrates Mexico's independence day. So no one really knows what's going to happen from here, how much steam he's going to continue to have. But it seems he's prepared to take this all the way.

MONTAGNE: Remind us here how this all came about. Why is this tribunal deciding who the next president will be?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, you know, for that we have to go back to just over two months ago to July 2nd. Felipe Calderon got more votes than Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the election, but it was a tiny margin of victory - 244,000 votes separated the two candidates. That kicked off a campaign on the part of Lopez Obrador and his supporters to try and prove that the election was rigged. They have claimed massive fraud took place, and they've used legal challenges and protests to demand a vote-by-vote recount. They were only able to get 9 percent of the ballots reviewed, though. And today, we will see the tribunal - which is presided over by seven judges - make their final judgment on whether or not the election was clean and fair.

They'll give their final tally of votes, and it is expected that they will name Felipe Calderon president elect.

MONTAGNE: And if that happens as expected, he will be facing considerable difficulties.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, there's no doubt about it. Not only is this electorate divided - hugely mistrustful after this very long, hot summer - but there are real issues that have to be addressed here. You know, there's growing drug violence, economic growth issues, you know, immigration. The political drama has overshadowed almost everything else here. Mexico in many ways has been stuck in a kind of limbo while a number of crises simmer. Calderon is really going to have to stamp his authority on the office right away. His party, though, does have a majority in the next congress. But the P.R.D. - Lopez Obrador's party - is the second biggest group. So there will certainly be a vociferous and - one can predict with almost certainty - a very difficult opposition.

MONTAGNE: Lourdes, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Mexico City, where a president elect will be declared today.

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