Calderon Prepares for Victory in Mexico

The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; 2:35 AM

MEXICO CITY -- Ruling-party presidential candidate Felipe Calderon quietly prepared for victory while his leftist opponent vowed to never concede defeat hours before Mexico's top electoral court was to announce a final ruling in the hotly disputed July elections _ an unappealable decision expected to favor Calderon.

Tuesday's long-awaited ruling by the Federal Electoral Tribunal _ which comes two months, three days, and tens of thousands of pages of legal challenges after voters cast their ballots _ is unlikely to end potentially explosive protests or close the growing political divide gripping the country.

"The court is going to say, 'The election was valid and Calderon is the president and that's the end of it,'" said political analyst Oscar Aguilar. "But that won't turn the page. That won't end anything."

Hundreds of supporters of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set up an overnight camp at the court's headquarters late Monday, vowing to prevent the judges from declaring Calderon president.

Most of the court's rulings so far have favored Calderon, who has a 240,000-vote advantage over Lopez Obrador. During an early morning session, the seven magistrates will give their final count in the election and decide whether it was valid. While they have the power to annul the election, there are no signs they plan to do so. The court's decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Both sides appeared to agree that the judges would confirm a Calderon victory in the July 2 election.

"We are very calm, very sure," Juan Camilo Mourino, who heads Calderon's transition team, said Monday. "Tomorrow, Felipe Calderon will be president-elect."

Lopez Obrador, who previously has indicated that he expects the court to decide in Calderon's favor, barely made mention of the impending decision Monday during his nightly address to followers in Mexico City's historic central plaza, the Zocalo.

Instead, he focused on an upcoming national convention of his supporters to decide if he should declare himself head of a parallel government. Members of that government would then go on to vote on a series of reforms to the country's institutions.

"This movement is now about transforming the country," he said.

"What we are proposing now could just be a dream _ maybe it won't bear fruit, maybe it will be that we fail _ but you know what we have? We have confidence, and above all the responsibility to do it," he later added. "The dreams of the men and women of today will be the realities of tomorrow."

The convention is planned for Sept. 16, Mexico's Independence Day, in the Zocalo, where the armed forces traditionally mass for a march down Mexico City's main Reforma avenue. Both places have been occupied by protesters for more than a month.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press