- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s attempt to establish a “permanent assembly” of some hundreds of thousands of his supporters clogging up the middle of Mexico City is an ill-conceived idea to bring public pressure on the Federal Electoral Tribunal in an effort to influence that court’s review of his allegations of electoral fraud. Mr. Lopez Obrador appeared to have lost the July 2 election, but he almost immediately challenged the validity of the results. He has now rallied his supporters to camp out in downtown Mexico City and demand a full recount, tying up the financial district with detrimental economic effects and promising to stay until the court reaches its decision, which could come as late as the end of the month. This action should prove to be self-defeating: paralyzing the financial district of Mexico City will not bolster Mr. Lopez Obrador’s case in front of the court — it only erodes his popularity among moderates who voted for him.

It’s possible that Mr. Lopez Obrador’s loss has prompted his most natural reaction, and the leftist has a documented history of quickly blaming back-room conspiracies and other nefarious but unspecified forces for his political defeats. This theory, advanced by Mexican historian and political analyst Enrique Krauze, follows Mr. Lopez Obrador’s “political messianism” — politics that Mr. Krauze has described as “a monarchy cloaking itself in the trappings of democracy and harboring messianic ambitions” — to its logical conclusion: in his mind, it’s simply not possible that he lost.

A full recount may sound thorough, but it doesn’t remove the most fallible and corruptible component of the ballot-counting process: the human influence. Observers from the European Union reported no fraud or irregularities in the voting. Many in the American press have weighed in with strong praise for the institutional integrity and effectiveness of the Federal Electoral Institute. Part of that integrity, however, is the process by which candidates may bring challenges that are heard dutifully. Mr. Lopez Obrador is, therefore, well within his rights to petition the court.

While Mexico’s democratic institutions may be young, they are not so fragile as to be broken by protests of the size that Mr. Lopez Obrador has so far managed to rally. The leftist is certainly doing his country no favors, but threatening the entire system he is not. What he is doing, and with some success, is ensuring that the elected president takes office with as little political capital as possible, further weakening an executive who will take office already hamstrung by a divided legislature. This move benefits Mr. Lopez Obrador, whose party gained a substantial number of seats in the legislature.

For U.S. officials, the temptation to reach out to Mr. Calderon is strong — President Bush placed a call to the soon-to-be president elect not long after the vote — but, until the Federal Electoral Tribunal formally declares a winner, the move is still premature. Until the court fully considers and rules on Mr. Lopez Obrador’s challenge, the Mexican democratic process is still in motion.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide