Mexican hopeful settles in for fight

Published August 14, 2006

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's leftist presidential candidate promised on Sunday to maintain protest camps that have paralyzed downtown Mexico City until at least September, unless the nation's top electoral court orders a total recount in the still-disputed election.

Settling in for a long battle, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told supporters who launched the protest camps two weeks ago that "we could be here for years" if the tribunal does not grant his demand for a full recount. He also promised to spark a national leftist movement at a Sept. 16 convention.

The camps have brought Mexico City's cultural and financial center to a near standstill, forcing workers to hike to their jobs and causing traffic jams across the city. The protesters are angry at an official but still uncertified vote count that gave the conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon a slim lead in the July 2 election.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal ordered a partial recount of 9 percent of the polling places, which was to end Sunday. The court's seven magistrates will review the results and release them this month. The court scheduled a public session for today, but it is expected to use the session to hear appeals in congressional races, rather than the presidential race.

Lopez Obrador is demanding a full recount and has said he will not accept anything less.

"There's one decision that we've made from the start," he said "We will not allow the imposition of an illegitimate government."

He called for large-scale protests on Sept. 1, when President Vicente Fox gives his last state-of-the-nation address, and on Sept. 6, the deadline for the country's top electoral court to name a president-elect.

He also said he wanted to hold a "national democratic convention" in Mexico City on Sept. 16, the nation's independence day, to "reform" the country's electoral institutions.

The convention apparently would be aimed at forming a long-term antigovernment movement outside of electoral politics, something Lopez Obrador termed "a new stage" and a "watershed in Mexican history."

Representatives of Calderon's conservative National Action Party have insisted that no major problems or variations in the vote have surfaced during the partial recount. Calderon's supporters have launched counterprotests, asking Mexicans to wear white T-shirts on Sunday to show they do not agree with Lopez Obrador.