- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A top political adviser for Mexico’s leftist presidential candidate said questions regarding the election could destabilize Mexico and lead to violence if there is no recount of the 41 million votes cast earlier this month.

“We think that destabilization of the country will be the outcome if there is not a full recount. The country is divided now, and we are looking for a way out of this crisis,” said Manuel Camacho, a leader in the political commission backing leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in an interview in Washington Tuesday.

The Federal Electoral Institute reported that Mr. Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party received 35.34 percent of the votes cast on July 2, while Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party won 36.38 percent of the votes. Mr. Calderon, a conservative Harvard-educated businessman, is widely considered to be the legitimate winner.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, a self-declared man of the poor, said the elections were fraudulent. His supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest and block business interests in pursuit of a recount. On Tuesday, Mr. Lopez Obrador announced that he would sue the electoral institute to force a recount.

Mr. Camacho said that if the votes are recounted, Mr. Lopez Obrador will “tell the people to demobilize and go home” and accept the results, regardless of the outcome.

“Six days for a recount could bring six years of peace,” Mr. Camacho said.

Mr. Calderon rejected the demand.

“What Mr. Lopez Obrador is doing is blackmail,” Arturo Sarukhan, international affairs coordinator for Mr. Calderon, said in a telephone interview from Mexico City yesterday.

“He is trying to use the streets to get what the ballot box did not give him,” he said.

Mr. Camacho accused Mr. Calderon of overspending his campaign limit and running illegal TV advertisements attacking Mr. Lopez Obrador.

Mr. Sarukhan, however, said that the election was “squeaky clean” and that Mr. Lopez Obrador’s “antics” could damage the reputation of the electoral institute, which he said was internationally credible.

“We do not want to do anything outside the law and we have only called for peaceful demonstrations,” said Mr. Camacho, who added that if a recount is denied, “violence is always a risk.”

When asked whether Mr. Calderon’s party feared violence and unrest if the courts block a recount, Mr. Sarukhan said, “We are confident that Mexican society can withstand attempts to undermine the rule of law in our young but stable democracy.”

Christopher Sabatini of the Council of the Americas said, “There’s a lot of heated rhetoric, but the process is playing out as it should. One candidate raised a concern and lodged a complaint with the tribunal, which will decide this. This is all within the law and candidates have a right to do this.”

Marifeli Perez-Stable of the Inter-American Dialogue said, “What the candidates say about each other is not what really matters here, but the voters who think the election was illegal do matter. Any new president needs to address them.”

The courts have until Aug. 31 to reach a decision to order a full or partial recount, nullify the election or declare Mr. Calderon president-elect.


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