- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2012

MEXICO CITY — Four days before Mexico’s presidential election, much of the nation’s attention was focused on a man who appears certain to lose.

That man is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the fiery, feisty leftist who shut down the heart of Mexico City after the last election with massive protests against a narrow loss that he blamed on electoral fraud.

Mr. Lopez Obrador drew hundreds of thousands back downtown Wednesday night for a massive end-of-campaign rally to hail what he called his imminent victory.

The only problem is that final polls released Wednesday show Mr. Lopez Obrador well in second place, with the candidate of Mexico’s former ruling party, Enrique Pena Nieto, anywhere from 8 to 17 percentage points in the lead.

As a result, few expect anything other than a Pena Nieto victory that will return the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to the presidency after 12 years out of the nation’s highest office.

What remains in doubt for millions of Mexicans is whether Mr. Lopez Obrador will quietly accept defeat. Or will he call his followers back to the streets for a repeat of the 2006 protests that shut down the capital’s center for six weeks and shook the faith of many, at home and abroad, in the stability of Mexico’s young democracy?

In that election race, Mr. Lopez Obrador led until the final days, and his backers could not believe the official result showing him less than 1 percentage point short of victor Felipe Calderon, though electoral courts upheld it. Mr. Lopez Obrador declared himself the “legitimate president of Mexico,” named a Cabinet and toured the country to rally backers against the alleged electoral fraud.

This time, polls show him well behind, but his final campaign rally on Wednesday was to many Mexicans an uncomfortable echo of the last electoral battle.

Thousands of supporters waving the yellow flags of his party and wearing Lopez Obrador T-shirts shouted, “President! President! You are the president!” as they lined four lanes of Mexico City’s central Reforma boulevard.

The former Mexico City mayor has been launching sharp attacks on Mr. Pena Nieto and the PRI, and routinely expressing grave doubts about the validity of the electoral process and the potential for fraud.

He called Tuesday for supporters to closely monitor polling stations. “These days we’re preparing ourselves to defend the vote, so another electoral fraud isn’t committed,” he told a crowd of backers.

Luis Rubio, president of the Center for Development Research, an independent think tank, said Mr. Lopez Obrador has been “anticipating the alleged fraud for weeks. The notion that there is fraud is alive and well in his rhetoric.”

“Lopez Obrador is Lopez Obrador, and he will not recognize the result no matter what,” Mr. Rubio said.

Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute was pressuring the candidates Wednesday to sign a “civility pact” committing them to respect the legitimacy and legality of Sunday’s election results, a document that appeared squarely aimed at Mr. Lopez Obrador.

The leftist has pledged that he or a campaign adviser would sign the pact in coming days.