- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

Angered by the Federal Electoral Tribunal’s unanimously rejection of his calls for a full recount of some 41 million ballots, defeated presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged his supporters to step up the protests, clogging up downtown Mexico City, occupying toll booths on federal highways and blocking access to several major banks and the Finance Ministry. The tribunal tasked with ruling on election disputes decided that votes would be recounted from just under 12,000, or around 9 percent, of the polling stations, with the possibility of a more widespread recount properly left open in case serious errors are discovered. That the defeat brought greater urgency to Mr. Lopez Obrador’s protests indicates that the former political chief of Mexico City senses a final decision will occur soon.

Mr. Lopez Obrador’s goal is winning the election — appeals for recounts are merely ancillary. His promise to accept the election officials’ final decision seems even more dubious now, after the decision from the electoral court prompted stronger opposition rather than compliance from the leftist and his supporters, who continue to diminish in number. Indeed, Mr. Lopez Obrador’s challenges would carry more weight if he could be expected to accept any scenario that did not end in his victory. But Mr. Lopez Obrador clearly imagines his place is in esteemed company. “In the spirit of Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we seek to make our voices heard,” he writes in an op-ed in the New York Times. His rhetoric suggests a sense of disbelief that he could have lost.

In the same op-ed, Mr. Lopez Obrador make the correct observation that “Mexico has a history of corrupt elections where the will of the people has been subverted,” and the country is less than a decade away from a time when the electoral tribunals were “subordinated to political power.” But as Mexican democracy has evolved from single-party rule to a legitimate contest, so have the democratic institutions improved. The Federal Electoral Institute received high praise for the transparency of the election, and election monitors reported no evidence of fraud or irregularities.

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It is paramount, we have argued throughout the aftermath of the election, that challenges legally brought to the electoral tribunal by Mr. Lopez Obrador be accorded full consideration. But it is equally important for the leftist candidate to respect the outcome. Election officials have done their part; Mr. Lopez Obrador has not done his. His demonstrations are no more than an attempt to hold democratic institutions hostage with protesters in the streets.

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