Posted at 6:31 PM ET, 09/13/2006

The End

We will no longer be updating the Mexico Votes blog. For Mexico news, bookmark Mexico City bureau chief Manuel Roig-Franzia or check the latest wires.

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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 09/ 6/2006

From The Post

Mexico's special electoral court unanimously declared Felipe Calderón president-elect of Mexico in a decision that resolved the legal battle but did not end the political crisis. Presidential runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would create an "alternate government," calling Calderón an "illegitimate president."

Speaking moments later, Calderón called for conciliation, saying, "Mexicans can think differently, but we are not enemies." He declared that "the electoral process is over and the hour has arrived for unity." The dueling speeches were tracked minutely by Mexicans both puzzled and fascinated by the prospect of two men simultaneously claiming to lead the nation.

Read the full story from The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia.

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Posted at 4:31 PM ET, 09/ 5/2006

Calderón: ¡Me siento muy bien!

It's official. Sixty-five days after the voting took place, Mexico has a new president. After four hours of speechifying, the seven-member federal election tribunal unanimously certified conservative Felipe Calderón as the winner of the July 2 contest.

For Mexico, the ruling ends a long, tense period of political uncertainty and puts in office a man who has promised to continue the pro-business policies of fellow National Action Party President Vicente Fox. After enduring two months of legal challenges and street protests in virtual silence, the 44-year-old Calderón emerged minutes after the decision and proclaimed: "I feel very good!"

He immediately announced plans for two speeches tonight. Robbed of the chance for a traditional election night party, Calderón has indicated that he hopes to hold a belated, victory celebration Sept. 10.

In the streets of Mexico City, supporters of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador waved their fists in the air, shot off fireworks and sobbed bitterly over his defeat.

Alleging massive election fraud, López Obrador's challenge was initially reminiscent of the 2000 presidential recount in the United States. But it quickly became clear to Campaign Conexión that López Obrador was a different type of politician and his followers were prepared to do whatever he asked.

He drew hundreds of thousands to protest rallies throughout the summer and convinced several thousand people to join him in a makeshift tent city in Mexico City's downtown Zocalo. He has vowed to continue his massive street protests and possibly form a parallel, opposition government.

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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 09/ 1/2006

Fox's Farewell Address -- Bring in the Troops

It was supposed to be his grand farewell, a moment to bask in high popularity ratings and a strengthened economy. But outgoing President Vicente Fox faces a bitter -- potentially violent -- showdown tonight, uncertain whether he will be able to actually deliver his final state of the nation speech or even make it to the podium inside the Chamber of Deputies.

Instead of preparing one last victory lap for the man who ousted the once-dominant PRI, the plan is to erect a veritable shield of armor around Fox.

All day Friday, Mexicans strategized about street and subway closings as political commentators speculated on what will happen at 7 p.m. (central time), when Fox is scheduled to stand before Congress to give the speech, known as the Informe.

"As Mr. Fox prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address Friday, that work includes resolving a political crisis that could plunge the nation into violence. He might not even be able to enter the site of his speech, the lower house of Congress, because protesters are threatening to block his path," explains Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning News.

"While these addresses normally are used to discuss poverty, crime and other issues, Mr. Fox confronts a volatile civil disobedience campaign by leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador, designed to reverse presidential election results that left him the apparent loser. The results showed Felipe Calderón of Mr. Fox's National Action Party beat Mr. López Obrador by 239,000 votes."

Narrated Photo Gallery: Vicente Fox's 'Revolution'

Yes, after camping out in tents in Mexico City's Zocalo for weeks, López Obrador and his supporters are now threatening to block entrances to the legislative building, create traffic gridlock and even physically surround Fox so that he cannot speak. López Obrador and his Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, are targeting Fox because they say the president has illegally aided Calderón during and after the July 2 election.

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Posted at 3:57 PM ET, 09/ 1/2006

Antojitos: Fox's Chopping Block

In the "picture worth 1,000 words" category, El Universal cartoonist Carreno has brilliantly captured the bind President Vicente Fox finds himself ahead of tonight's state of the nation address.

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Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 08/29/2006

And the Winner Is...

It's almost over -- and the news looks very good for Felipe Calderón, who in all likelihood will soon be addressed as Señor Presidente. Mexico's contested presidential election moved a giant step closer to finality late Monday, when a special election court rejected a litany of complaints by runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The tribunal stopped short of certifying Calderón as the winner in the July 2 election. But most analysts say that is likely to occur soon -- perhaps today, perhaps later this week.

With his charges of massive election fraud, López Obrador had sparked a political crisis in the fledgling democracy. Loyal supporters took to the streets, joining the charismatic former mayor is his demand for a full recount. The tribunal however ordered a recount of just 9 percent of the 42 million votes cast and finally yesterday, released the tally.

In the end, it hardly mattered. The seven judges announced that the recount shaved just 4,000 votes off Calderón's original 244,000-vote margin. In their unanimous ruling, they concluded the mistakes made in the original count were minor and a far cry from the widespread fraud López Obrador alleged.

"The tribunal said the smattering of administrative and mathematical errors in thousands of polling places were not acts of 'bad faith' and did not merit throwing out the results of those polling places," reported the Mexico edition of the Miami Herald. 'This tribunal can say to the citizenry that their votes were counted fairly,' said magistrate Fernando Ojesto. 'We have followed the principle of one man, one vote, and of effective suffrage.'

"The jurists also rebuked the López Obrador campaign, saying it had failed to provide concrete evidence of irregularities in the thousands of challenged precincts where it had claimed fraud."

Calderón, who has been working with a transition team since early July, reiterated his belief that the election had been "clean."

"Speaking to lawmakers in Mexico City, Mr. Calderón said he was pleased that the court's ruling had confirmed his victory. 'Just as important as the result of the tribunal's ruling,' he said, 'is that the citizens know the quality of the election we had, that doubts are cleared away and all the malice that has been sown among the citizens is eliminated.'"

Calderón said he supported the right to free expression, but also promised to lead with a "firm hand."

Dismissive and Determined

Not surprisingly, López Obrador remained defiant. Speaking from the downtown square where he and supporters have lived in tents for several weeks, the man known as AMLO said he would "never recognize a government headed by Calderón."

"'Never more will we accept that an illegal and illegitimate government is installed in our country,' he told thousands in the Zócalo, Mexico City's central square. He also questioned the tribunal's ability to resolve the dispute fairly, saying 'the judges made a political decision, not a judicial one.'

"'Today the Electoral Tribunal decided to validate the fraud against the will of the citizens expressed at the ballot boxes,' he said. 'With this decision, constitutional order is broken and the path is opened to a usurper.'"

Many of his supporters sounded equally determined.

"While Monday's ruling seems to all but assure Calderón of the presidency, it will almost certainly fail to satisfy many of the 15 million Mexicans who voted for López Obrador," reports Houston Chronicle bureau chief Dudley Althaus. 'It's not fair that they defraud an entire country,' said Ruben Gonzalez, 17, a public high school senior doing his biology homework under a giant tarp at the sit-in. 'The rich get richer and the poor stay the same or get poorer. It's not fair.'"

One large question remains: What will be López Obrador's next move? He is threatening to continue the mass civil disobedience he unleashed a month ago.

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Posted at 8:47 AM ET, 08/29/2006

From The Post: Court Rejects Fraud Claims

Mexico's electoral tribunal rejected nearly all of the fraud claims by presidential runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador, saying that a partial recount will not change the outcome of the July 2 presidential election. The court did not officially declare a winner, but few expect the final outcome to change.

López Obrador had leveled a host of allegations, including claims that tally sheets were changed, voters were paid off and computers were rigged by Mexico's electoral institute, which oversaw the balloting. But the tribunal was unimpressed by the evidence López Obrador submitted.

The electoral court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner, and it must still respond to López Obrador's demand that the election be annulled.

Read the full story from The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia.

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Posted at 8:35 AM ET, 08/28/2006

From The Post: Cardinal and the 'Crazies'

The continuing fight over Mexico's presidential election has crossed into sensitive territory. The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia reports on the mixing of religion and politics in Mexico, as Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Norberto Rivera take a stand.

The demonstrators wrapped in sleeping bags in the Zocalo clearly have no plans to take down their Virgins or their crucifixes. And Rivera seems disinclined to apologize for calling them crazy. So they sit across the street from each other, the protesters and the cardinal, immovable in their grudge match, with church bells clanging overhead.

Read the full story.

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Posted at 2:25 PM ET, 08/25/2006

Mexico Waits While Election Tribunal Considers Complaints

Real political news in this nation awaiting-a-president, is hard to come by these days. The seven-member election tribunal is apparently chugging along considering a hefty batch of complaints and mulling whether to declare Felipe Calderón as the winner of the contested July 2 election.

Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador who prompted this season of uncertainty by challenging those results, remains camped out in Mexico City's downtown square, known as the Zocalo. (Read all about Campaign Conexión's visit to the tent city.)

Calderón, nominee of the ruling National Action Party (or PAN), is developing a transition plan that interestingly embraces some of the social policies his rival ran on. All of a sudden, the conservative who ran on promises to continue the policies of President Vicente Fox is talking about increasing cash handouts to poor, as well as reinvigorating housing and healthcare programs.

The coming weeks are a big test of this young democracy and the august Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that no less than Mexico's international reputation rests on the shoulders of the tribunal.

"Today, however, Mexico may be on the brink of undoing a generation of hard-won political reform," according to the editorial. "Amid the inevitable legal arcana that surround election challenges, the greater fear is political -- that the tribunal will bend beneath Mexico's notoriously backward-looking pressures.

"The tribunal's decision is a crucial test for Mexican modernity. Mexicans who had reason to believe that their country was evolving toward a pluralistic democracy supported by strong independent institutions are right to be worried, along with foreign investors and international creditors."

The Lame Duck

As Campaign Conexión has been reporting for some time, Fox is growing increasingly agitated with López Obrador's agitating. The latest whopper by the outgoing president was his statement that López Obrador is "messianic."

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/23/2006

Ready or Not -- Fox Declares a Winner

So much for democracy. It seems President Vicente Fox has made up his mind about who will be succeeding him Dec. 1. Suggesting he doesn't need to wait for the verdict of Mexico's election tribunal, Fox has called the contested presidential election in favor of his party's nominee Felipe Calderón.

Fox also noted, accurately, that the mass demonstrations by supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador have been confined largely to the capital city. This is noteworthy because López Obrador had called for nationwide civil disobedience and it appears that many across Mexico, including people who voted for him, are discouraged, bored or simply have other things to do.

Just in case anyone missed the point, Fox's spokesman reinforced el presidente's remarks. Campaign Conexión senses some concern in the Fox administration that things may not go too well for the boss's final address to the nation Sept. 1. López Obrador has threatened to block the annual event and also interrupt Mexico's military parade on Sept. 16.

From the outset, the López Obrador camp has accused Fox of inappropriately meddling in the election. It is one of the central charges in the PRD's 900-page election complaint. So it only stood to reason that López Obrador's campaign coordinator would describe Fox's most recent comments as more of the same, intended to stoke already high post-election tensions.

Meanwhile, AMLO, as he is known to followers, has remained camped out on the Zocalo, an enormous downtown square now closed off to cars. Adam Thompson of the Financial Times reports it's getting hot inside López Obrador's tent. During his visit to the encampment, Thompson spotted "Sources on the History of the Mexican Revolution, a large leather-bound book with gold leaf on the spine."

"Mr. López Obrador has been reading about José Vasconcelos, a prominent revolutionary figure who later put down his loss in the 1929 presidential election to fraud and called on supporters to begin an armed struggle. And like that of Vasconcelos, Mr. López Obrador is aware that the story of his own struggle might be retold for future generations.

"Mr. López Obrador admits that "there has been a drain of support" since he began his civil resistance campaign. He also accepts that less than half the population supports him in his struggle. In the capital, for example, he believes he now has the backing of 38 percent of citizens. But he insists that he had no option but to challenge the authorities."

Columnist Kenneth Emmond sees some hypocrisy in the man who hollers "plot!" then plots to "polarize Mexico even more." And now, Emmond argues, the drawn-out saga is impacting the economy and many of the low-income workers López Obrador has said he represents.

"City officials, who, like López Obrador, hail from the PRD, say business is off by, maybe, five percent. Business owners say sales are down by 50 to 70 percent, and this during a peak tourism month. No doubt the truth lies somewhere in between.

"Even people López Obrador claims to represent are affected. The Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS) says more than 800 workers have been dismissed from affected businesses. Owners say that's just for starters; if something isn't done soon, hundreds of businesses will fold."
uced an unusual degree of income inequality in most of these countries."

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/18/2006

Vicente Fox for 'Peace and Harmony'

Even though he was formally scolded for getting involved in the campaign to succeed him, President Vicente Fox is back in the middle of the brawl. For two full days, the Mexican media has been chronicling Fox's offers to "mediate" the simmering political crisis. Meanwhile, federal officers are descending on downtown Mexico City.

What had been largely peaceful demonstrations by supporters of left-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador turned testy on Monday. Several legislators from López Obrador's Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, say they were injured in scuffles with police officers spraying tear gas.

Now 3,000 -- yes, 3,000! -- security agents from both federal and city forces are guarding the Mexican legislative building, known as San Lázaro. By the way, although they are wearing riot gear, the Preventive Police Force, says it is not armed. They are only using high-pressure water guns to subdue trouble-makers. Security officials have also installed a giant fence.

The barricade outside the Mexican Congress. (AP)

Fox, who ended 71 years of rule by the PRI with his election in 2000, was prohibited by law from seeking a second term. Through the spring, he used his bully pulpit and advertising budget to mock López Obrador and praise National Action Party nominee Felipe Calderón. When Calderón was declared the winner by 240,000 votes, Fox quickly called to congratulate him, even though the results were (and are still) being challenged.

With much of downtown Mexico City clogged with López Obrador supporters camped in the Zocalo and along major boulevards, Fox is attempting to play elder statesman. He said his government is "totally open" to dialogue to help resolve the political crisis and called for "order, peace and harmony" as a formula for creating a great nation.

Although he does not leave office until Dec. 1, Fox aides have been offering up interviews with the lame duck, including with the New York Times:

Mr. Fox predicted in the interview that Mexico's electoral institutions, which he described as "the most modern, well-structured, efficient electoral systems in the world," would bring the crisis to a peaceful end.
"This is a country of institutions," he said. "I am sure that this test, this real test of the democratic system, will be passed and resolved according to the law and democratic principles."
...On Sunday, Mr. Fox refused to give an opinion about the demonstrations led by Mr. López Obrador, which have snarled traffic across Mexico City for two weeks. But he made it clear he believed that disputes over the presidency should be fought in the courts, not the streets.

At a ceremony marking the anniversary of the founding of the Federal Electricity Commission, Fox said: "I once again call on each and every citizen, on the different political actors, to seek unity and dialogue together, to defend democracy and the institutions together."

The Fox administration has even been in contact with López Obrador representatives to try to resolve post-electoral crisis. The focus of discussions by Interior department officials is Fox's Sept. 1 annual address to the nation. López Obrador has called on his backers to block entrances to the speech.

So far, PRD leaders are denying they are engaged in talks with the president. (Hard to say if that's true or just political cover.)

The editorial writers at El Universal see Fox's efforts as a welcome -- albeit surprising -- effort.

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