The man who ran a tight second place in the official count from last Sunday's presidential election in Mexico drew more than 100,000 people to Mexico City's main plaza, known as the Zocalo, Saturday to protest what he claims was a fraudulent process. Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked his supporters to refrain from acts of violence while he pursues legal channels to contest the election results.
They came by the tens of thousands, cramming the narrow streets of Mexico City's old central district, waving flags and banners and chanting their disapproval of the official vote result that gave the victory to ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon.
Many carried signs condemning Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute for having, in the view of the protesters, conspired with the ruling party to steal the election from Lopez Obrador. International observers called the July second voting process exemplary and representatives of every party were on hand at every voting station in the country to observe the process, which was mostly carried out by volunteers.
Still, in his address the crowded Zocalo, Lopez Obrador said he and the millions who support him were victims of a massive fraud.
He said, we are sure that, in spite of all the anti-democratic practices, we triumphed on the second of July.
He called on his supporters not to block roads or engage in violent acts that might hurt the cause. He said he would present proof of his accusations to the Federal Electoral Tribunal on Sunday. The tribunal is the body established by law for all such complaints and is also the body that is designated to officially pronounce the winner of the presidential race on September sixth. All complaints brought before the tribunal must be resolved by the end of August.
Lopez Obrador said his assertion that he won the election would be proved by a complete review of the vote.
He called for a recount, vote-by-vote and voting booth-by-voting booth.
The former mayor of Mexico City did not provide any hard evidence of fraud, but he told reporters earlier in the day that he would do that once he had formally presented his complaint to the election tribunal.
Meanwhile, the candidate who won by less than sixth-tenths of a percent, according to the final vote count, Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party, is proceeding as if he were already president elect. He says he will begin forming his transition team Monday. He also received calls of congratulations over the past couple of days from Mexico's current president, Vicente Fox, from President Bush and from the Prime Ministers of Spain and Canada.
Calderon has called for a government of unity and has reached out to other parties, including those that backed Lopez Obrador, offering to name members of those parties to his cabinet. But Lopez Obrador and his supporters are having none of it, at least for now, and even if the vote challenge fails, Calderon faces a difficult job ahead trying to rule a divided nation where many citizens are likely to remain angry and distrustful for a long time to come.