Sunday, July 09, 2006

Political Skullduggery Alleged In Mexico

At least the Mexicans have the cojones to take to the streets when they realize that their presidential election has been stolen:

Downtown Mexico City swelled Saturday with the accumulated frustration and rage of the poor, who were stoked into a sign-waving, fist-pumping frenzy by new fraud allegations that failed populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hopes will overturn the results of Mexico's presidential election.

Lopez Obrador ignited the smoldering emotions of his followers Saturday morning, alleging for the first time that Mexico's electoral commission had rigged its computers before the July 2 election to ensure the half-percentage-point victory of Felipe Calderon, a champion of free trade. In a news conference before the rally, Lopez Obrador called Calderon "an employee" of Mexico's powerful upper classes and said a victory by his conservative opponent would be "morally impossible."

Lopez Obrador added a new layer of complexity to the crisis by saying he not only would challenge the results in the country's special elections court but also would attempt to have the election declared illegal by Mexico's Supreme Court. That strategy presages a constitutional confrontation because according to many legal experts the special elections court is the only body that can hear election challenges....

Lopez Obrador's approach pairs legal maneuvers with mass public pressure. On Saturday, he gave a mega-display of street power, drawing an estimated 280,000 people into the city center on a humid, drizzly afternoon, according to a Mexico City government estimate....

During his 40-minute address, Lopez Obrador stressed Mexico's class divide, accusing "powerful interests" of trying to deny democratic freedoms to "us, the poor." The crowd, which spilled into side streets off the square and may have been the largest of the presidential campaign, chanted, "Presidente, Presidente!"....

Lopez Obrador wants a vote-by-vote count, which would require opening sealed vote packets from more than 130,000 polling stations. Electoral commission officials have sided with Calderon's strategists, who argue that the law does not allow for the packets to be opened unless tally sheets attached to the packets appear to have been altered. Lopez Obrador said that only 2,600 vote packets were opened Tuesday and Wednesday during a marathon official count, which shrank Calderon's lead from 400,000 votes after a preliminary vote to 230,000....

The electoral institute will cede control of the election to Mexico's special elections court, which has until Sept. 6 to decide whether to certify the results. Calderon has not waited for the elections court, and neither have world leaders. He accepted congratulatory calls on Friday from President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But Lopez Obrador cautioned against such formalities, saying, "Right now, there is no president-elect."

Lopez Obrador said the party of Calderon and President Vicente Fox had "learned fast" the dirty tricks used by the Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled for 71 years until Fox toppled it in 2000 in Mexico's cleanest election to date.

He said count figures flashed on television had been rigged and were not consistent with the real vote count.

"The electronic counting system was manipulated. Mathematically, we have the proof of how the manipulation was done," he told foreign reporters. "What was on the screen did not always correspond to reality."

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