Obrador plans protests over Mexican poll

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A top aide to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftwing candidate in Mexico’s disputed presidential election, on Thursday promised mass protests in the event of an unfavourable ruling by the country’s electoral tribunal.

The pledge, which follows Mr López Obrador’s call for a huge demonstration in Mexico City’s main square this Sunday, will throw into question the candidate’s commitment to respect the tribunal’s forthcoming ruling on the outcome of this month’s election. It is also sure to sow fears of escalating social unrest in the coming weeks.

Last week’s official count of the July 2 election handed victory to Felipe Calderón of the centre-right National Action party (PAN) by the slender margin of 0.58 per cent or about 240,000 votes from 41m cast.

But Mr López Obrador of the Democratic Revolution party (PRD) has refused to accept defeat. On Sunday night, he submitted an 800-page document to the country’s Federal Electoral Tribunal, the highest electoral court, allegedly documenting proof of foul play.

The document urges the tribunal to order a full recount of the vote and, if that does not favour the leftwing candidate, an annulment of the entire election.

Ricardo Monreal, a central figure in Mr López Obrador’s campaign, told the FT on Thursday the campaign would respect the tribunal’s ruling, which must come by September 6. But he quickly added: “We will continue to organise protests if they [the tribunal] do not order a recount.”

Juan Molinar, a leading figure in Mr Calderón’s campaign, replied: “There’s a word for that: blackmail.”

Mr Monreal, who has been at the forefront of Mr López Obrador’s campaign this week to show daily videos of alleged foul play in the election, on Thurday played down an apparent blunder when his party’s own representative at one of the questioned polling stations denied there had been fraud as Mr López Obrador insists.

He said he remained confident the tribunal would order a full recount, but warned that failure to do so would be costly. “If there is no recount there is going to be social and political chaos. The people are very emotional and nothing will calm them except a recount.”

The PRD had undertaken nationwide polls showing that seven out of 10 Mexicans believed the elections had been fraudulent, he said.

Mr Monreal confirmed that more than 100,000 Mexicans had already set off from the country’s 300 districts to march on Mexico City. He did not say how many he expected there but expressed confidence that there would be “many more” than last week, when an estimated 250,000 people rallied.

However, Mr Molinar said the Calderón campaign’s polls showed that only 25 per cent of the population would support mobilisations on the streets to challenge the result. Contrasting the situation with last year’s attempt to impeach Mr López Obrador, which collapsed after he successfully organised a series of non-violent demonstrations, Mr Molinar said: “This is different. Then, 65 per cent of Mexicans were against the impeachment because they thought it was unfair and because it was a threat to democracy. Now 75 per cent of Mexicans are against him, because they think that what he is doing is unfair, and a threat to democracy.”

In a press conference this week, Mr Calderón said he would soon begin a national tour to thank Mexicans for their support.

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