Update: Mexico, the Electoral Battle Continues

Disgruntled PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to pursue his campaign against the TEPJF’s refusal to order a full recount of the July 2 election, most recently calling for a large scale protest to be staged at the same time as President Vicente Fox’s September 1 State of the Nation address. He also plans to hold a “National Democratic Convention” on September 16, Mexico’s Independence Day.

In downtown Mexico City, López Obrador’s supporters have pitched a 12-mile encampment and are holding mass marches that obstruct various federal offices throughout the city. The federal government has taken measures to reinforce security around strategic buildings. AMLO has shown particular reluctance to give up his daily ardent speeches encouraging the masses to stay firm in their opposition to Felipe Calderón’s presidential “victory.” He has made clear his intention to step up his movement from “peaceful civil resistance” to a “campaign of civil disobedience” implying, for example, he would support the citizenry’s refusal to pay taxes.

AMLO is now facing a serious dilemma as he attempts to fill the role of a charismatic leader embracing populist rhetoric to stir passions among his supporters, while also staying within acceptable political boundaries by adopting a moderate and genteel stance. As the latest demonstrations reach a feverish level and are increasingly marked by violent confrontations between police and demonstrators, even López Obrador’s attempts to contain the ebullience of some of his militants may fail. AMLO’s endeavor to shed light on a potentially fraudulent electoral process must not undermine his role as a legitimate political actor within the mainstream of Mexican political life. While AMLO deserves profound respect for his unwavering commitment to his belief in core democratic values, there is no question that many Mexicans are becoming increasingly exacerbated by the long lasting paralysis that the demonstrations have created. On several occasions this past week, President Vicente Fox has urged protesters to remain calm and to avoid confrontation. He called for an open dialogue (platicas de solucion) to alleviate the tension and solve this 7-week post electoral crisis which has begun to affect Mexico’s economic performance. But, Fox refuses to acknowledge his own culpability for helping to create an overheated political environment, during the presidential campaign, through his intemperate anti-López Obrador speeches.

López Obrador needs to realize that the entire battle for the hearts of the Mexican population cannot be won in the streets alone. In displaying unwavering loyalty to the rule of law by discouraging any genre of violent protest, he will give legitimacy to his cause, something that would satisfy his support base and perhaps convince the TEPJF that a full recount is necessary. According to Professor Lorenzo Cordova, a specialist in Mexican electoral statutes, if massive empirical evidence of fraud taints the partial recount, a wider recount may ensue, amounting to a turning point in Mexican political history.

The TEPJF has a constitutional deadline of August 31 to complete its computations and will declare a president-elect or annul the vote by September 6.