MEXICO CITY – 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 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 Felipe Calderon’s half-percentage-point victory. 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 would not only challenge the results in the country’s special elections court, but would also 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.
Calderon was declared the winner Thursday and has begun publicly presenting his plans for Mexico, even though Lopez Obrador has refused to concede. European Union election observers have said they found no significant irregularities in the vote, and many Mexicans appeared to accept Calderon as their next president.
Lopez Obrador’s approach pairs legal maneuvers with mass public pressure. On Saturday, he gave a mega-display of street power, drawing tens of thousands of people into the center of Mexico City on a humid, drizzly afternoon.
The crowd chanted, “Strong, strong!” when Lopez Obrador stepped to the microphone. The former Mexico City mayor then declared that the electoral commission had “played with the hopes” of millions of Mexicans by allegedly rigging the vote total. Thousands chanted back: “You are not alone!”
Lopez Obrador also told the crowd that he was organizing a march to the capital Wednesday from all over Mexico, including states hundreds of miles distant.
“This is, and will continue to be, a peaceful movement,” he said. Seconds later, he announced another mass rally, this one for July 18, at which the crowd raucously yelled back: “What time?”
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 count to 230,000.