- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s highest electoral court yesterday unanimously confirmed Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) as the nation’s president-elect, a decision spurned by supporters of the losing candidate, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who plan a nationwide campaign to protest the results.

The decision by the Federal Electoral Tribunal rejected charges of systematic fraud and awarded Mr. Calderon the presidency by 233,831 votes out of 41.6 million cast in the July 2 election — a margin of 0.56 of a percentage point.

The verdict by the court, which ruled on the overall fairness of the election, cannot be appealed. Neither candidate attended the court session, which was nationally televised.

“There are no perfect elections,” Judge Alfonsina Berta Navarro Hidalgo said in announcing the decision.

The White House issued a statement, congratulating the people of Mexico on the certification of a “free and fair electoral process.”

“We congratulate Felipe Calderon on his victory and look forward to working with him and his team,” according to the statement. The United States expects its relationship with Mexico to continue to be mutually beneficial, the White House said.

“This is what was expected,” said political analyst Daniel Lund. “It clears the air for everyone to continue what they were planning to do.”

Mr. Calderon faces the task of winning over millions of Mexicans angry that President Vicente Fox, who is from the same party as Mr. Calderon, didn’t make good on promises of sweeping change.

They also are angry that Mr. Fox launched an ad campaign against Mr. Lopez Obrador.

Mr. Calderon also faces a showdown with thousands who say they will stop at nothing to undermine his presidency.

“We aren’t going to let him govern,” Thomas Jimenez, a 30-year-old law student, screamed as hundreds of protesters threw eggs and trash at the courthouse.

Mr. Lopez Obrador is vowing to lead a parallel leftist government from the streets.

On Friday, legislators from Mr. Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) blocked Mr. Fox from making his final annual address to Mexico’s Congress, forcing him to leave the building and give his speech on television.

The decision by the seven judges — who have split their votes in disputes about other elections — also found that Mr. Fox endangered the election by making statements that favored Mr. Calderon, and that business leaders broke the law by paying for ads against Mr. Lopez Obrador.

But the problems weren’t serious enough to annul the results, the court said.

The court rejected most of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s accusations, including his assertion that the advertising campaign comparing him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez unfairly swayed voters.

The court also dismissed Mr. Lopez Obrador’s claim of subliminal messages in television ads by pro-Calderon businesses.

The court’s president, Leonel Castillo, called on Mexicans to unite and mend the deep divisions the election revealed.

“I hope we conclude this electoral process leaving confrontation behind,” he said.

Mr. Calderon, a 44-year-old former energy secretary and career politician, promised during the campaign to create jobs and keep the economy growing.

Since the election, he has adopted some of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s ideas on how to help Mexico’s poor majority.

Mr. Fox greeted the court’s decision with a smile during an appearance in Cancun, then publicly congratulated Mr. Calderon and invited Mr. Lopez Obrador to begin talks aimed at “strengthening the nation and our democracy.”

The ruling came more than two months and tens of thousands of pages of legal challenges after voters cast ballots. The U.S. presidential election of 2000 remained in dispute for about a month.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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