August 28, 2006 10:38 pm

Obrador aide urges election’s annulment

A key aide to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s leftwing presidential candidate, on Monday demanded that the country’s highest electoral authority annul last month’s disputed elections.

In an interview with the FT, Manuel Camacho, Mr López Obrador’s chief strategist, said: “The tribunal has to annul the election because it is the only way out of Mexico’s political crisis.”

His demand, the first time Mr López Obrador’s Democratic Revolution party (PRD) has openly called for the election to be annulled, came as Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal confirmed it would not order a full recount of the votes cast on July 2.

The tribunal’s announcement rejects what until Monday had been the chief demand of Mr López Obrador since he narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón of the ruling centre-right National Action party (PAN) last month.

The former mayor of Mexico City insists the elections were riddled with “inconsistencies” and that Vicente Fox, the country’s outgoing president and a member of the PAN – as well as business organisations and even Mexico’s electoral authorities – illegally conspired against him.

Almost a month ago, he ordered supporters to camp on a central avenue in Mexico City in a move to force the tribunal to order a full recount.

Mr Camacho accepted on Monday there was now no possibility of a full recount, and warned that anything other than annulling the vote – which would lead to an interim president elected by Congress, and new elections probably in the first half of 2008 – would worsen an atmosphere of growing political tension.

“We would head a movement that does not recognise the country’s institutions and inevitably that would mean escalating political confrontation,” he said.

On Sunday, Mr López Obrador said he would ask his movement’s delegates to vote on a proposal to form an “alternative government” at a rally in the capital on September 16.  

Mr Camacho also said there was a risk of violence – though he stressed that Mr López Obrador’s so-called “civil resistance” movement would continue to insist on peaceful actions. “People are very upset and there is a lot of confusion,” he said. “There could easily be clashes with federal police.”

In spite of his warnings, most experts say annulment is extremely unlikely, and two of the seven magistrates who make up the electoral tribunal on Monday appeared to lend weight to that view. They confirmed that the results of a partial recount ordered by the tribunal this month – involving roughly 9 per cent of the total number of ballot boxes – had turned up no significant changes to the count.

In addition, a source at the tribunal told the FT that there was no possibility of further partial recounts. “We have finished the first phase of the legal stage, and all the various complaints from the parties involved have been resolved,” he said.

He said the tribunal now had three remaining tasks: to adjust the official results of the election following the partial recount; to confirm – or not – that the election was fair and legal; and to name a president-elect. The tribunal must complete those tasks by September 6.

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