Mexican Runner-Up Remains Defiant

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (R), presidential candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), greets supporters during a rally in Mexico's city Zocalo square August 6, 2006.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (R), presidential candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), greets supporters during a rally in Mexico's city Zocalo square August 6, 2006. (Daniel Aguilar)

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By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 7, 2006

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 6 -- Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the runner-up in Mexico's presidential election whose supporters have erected tent cities to protest the results of the July 2 vote, said Sunday that the political crisis would not be resolved by the partial recount ordered by the country's highest electoral court.

Speaking inside the 18-by-9-foot tent where he has lived for the past week, López Obrador was utterly defiant. He will not accept results of the partial recount, he declared during his first interview since a special election court on Saturday rejected his request for a full recount. And he said he would not ask his supporters to disperse even though they have brought gridlock to Mexico City's downtown.

An annulment of the election would also not be acceptable, López Obrador said, declaring that a full recount is the only option that could bring an end to the massive protests he has inspired.

"I could not accept any other outcome," he said, sitting at a plastic, folding camping table with a large Mexican flag and a dangling camping lantern behind him.

However, López Obrador said he would accept the results -- even if he was declared the loser -- of a full recount.

López Obrador smiled and laughed often during the wide-ranging, hour-long interview, which he conducted inside the tent, steps from the ceremonial National Palace and the balcony where presidents appear each Sept. 15 to commemorate the Mexican Revolution.

Ranchero music blasted so loudly from nearby speakers that López Obrador, his voice raspy from a month of rallies, sometimes had to lean forward to be heard. Outside, tens of thousands of demonstrators mingled on the downtown square, the Zocalo. Dozens napped on blankets thrown atop wooden pallets -- their homes since López Obrador called for a campaign of peaceful civil resistance.

López Obrador's critics have accused him of trampling on Mexico's fragile democracy by lambasting and defying the rulings of the electoral commission and its courts -- cornerstones of Mexico's democratic transition after seven decades of one-party rule. But he said it is his opponent -- Felipe Calderón, a free-trade advocate from outgoing President Vicente Fox's National Action Party -- and his opponent's party that "prefer to take this country into a crisis."

"Why don't they get me out of the way by accepting a full recount?" said López Obrador, who trails Calderón by half a percentage point, or 240,000 out of 41 million votes cast.

Some commentators have fretted that López Obrador's protest movement will turn violent. During the interview, López Obrador said he was not concerned that the protests -- which have been peaceful so far -- would spiral out of control and lead to instability.

"They always think the public is irrational," López Obrador said.

Responding to another question about the possibility of instability, López Obrador waved his arms toward the throngs on the Zocalo.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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