Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftwing candidate in Mexico’s presidential election last July, proclaimed himself president-elect at the weekend and vowed to set about transforming the country’s institutions to establish “a new republic”.
Speaking before tens of thousands of cheering supporters, he said he would not recognise the government of Felipe Calderón, the official winner, and promised to continue his “civil resistance” movement.
“Do they really think the puppet they put in power will be able to govern?” he asked the “delegates” of his resistance movement. “Well, they are wrong.”
Mr López Obrador, the 52-year-old former Mexico City mayor, insisted that the July election had been fraudulent and said that his decision to proclaim himself president was not “capricious” but rather a necessary step in combating a corrupt system set up to benefit the rich.
“They [the establishment] created a gang of white-collar delinquents to fight against us,” he told a fervent crowd. He said the decision to proclaim himself president was a “take that so that they learn to respect the will of the people”.
Minutes before his rousing speech on Saturday evening, the delegates – organisers claimed there were more than a million although private estimates suggested there were considerably fewer – voted on 12 points.
These included naming Mr López Obrador president-elect, authorising him to appoint a cabinet, choose a government headquarters and even collect revenue, though they did not specify how. The delegates voted overwhelmingly to name him president on November 20, the date Mexicans celebrate the 1910 revolution.
With a show of hands – many enthusiastically raised both hands when asked to vote – delegates also promised to continue Mr López Obrador’s “peaceful civil resistance” movement aimed at complicating life for Mr Calderón once in power.
One delegate speaking before Mr López Obrador said the strategy would include protesting everywhere Mr Calderón appeared in public, holding up signs behind television reporters and even boycotting products of companies that allegedly contributed to Mr Calderon’s election campaign. Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Banamex, the bank owned by Citigroup, were some of the companies mentioned.
Speaking to the delegates, many of them drenched and shivering from a torrential rain storm earlier in the afternoon, Mr López Obrador said triumphantly: “I will not let Mexico down.”
The line went down well with those in the capital’s main square. But for others, Mr López Obrador already has. In Mexico City, the leftwing campaigner’s principal support base, a growing number of residents – including many who voted for him in July – say enough is enough.
Many political analysts say that by adopting such tactics, Mr López Obrador has locked himself into a poorly funded resistance movement that will gradually start to lose support. Mr Calderón, who takes possession on December 1, will be hoping they are right.