Candidate: Mexico Needs New Constitution

The Associated Press
Sunday, September 3, 2006; 10:21 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's leftist presidential candidate, who is contesting his rival's election victory, told followers Sunday the country needs a "radical transformation" and he plans to draft a new constitution.

Supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have camped out in the heart of the capital since July 30 to protest the results of the July 2 election which gave ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon a narrow lead of less than 0.6 percent or about 240,000 votes.

Lopez Obrador, who claims fraud and dirty tricks robbed him of the presidency, has said he will never recognize a victory by Calderon and will declare himself the alternative president.

The country's Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Wednesday to declare a president-elect or annul the vote.

With the tribunal likely to declare Calderon president-elect, Lopez Obrador has escalated his protest.

He has called supporters to a mass meeting in Mexico City's central plaza to plot strategy on Sept. 16 _ the same day and place Mexico's army stages an annual Independence Day parade.

The former Mexico City mayor, who portrays himself as the savior of the poor, also plans to hold a "democratic convention" that day in which he will declare his parallel government.

Reiterating his claim that the nation is run by a small elite, Lopez Obrador said Sunday he plans to summon convention delegates from across the country who would decide on calling an assembly to draft a new constitution. Mexico's current constitution dates to 1917 and was the result of the country's bloody revolution that broke out in 1910.

"We don't want cosmetic changes," Lopez Obrador told thousands gathered in Mexico City's main plaza, the Zocalo, where he has been sleeping in a tent for five weeks to protest the election results.

Lopez Obrador exhorted his followers to "sustain the resistance" while keeping it peaceful.

"We have a historic responsibility to rescue the republic," Lopez Obrador said. "We don't want the republic to be dominated by private interests."

Leftist legislators demanding a full recount in the elections stormed the congressional chambers' stage Friday, forcing President Vicente Fox to forgo his annual state-of-the-nation speech and hand in a written annual report instead _ the first time in modern history a Mexican president has not delivered his yearly speech to lawmakers.

Lopez Obrador's campaign manager Jesus Ortega said Saturday that the candidate's supporters in Congress will try to stop Calderon from being sworn in on Dec. 1.

© 2006 The Associated Press