Accessibility links

Breaking News

Mexico's Opposition Presidential Candidate Petitions Court Over Close Election

Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is challenging the results of last week's election. He filed a petition following the very narrow, but apparent victory of his conservative opponent, Felipe Calderon. VOA's Catherine Maddux examines how the disputed poll is likely to affect relations with Mexico's most important neighbor, the United States.

Lopez Obrador asked the Federal Election Tribunal to order a manual recount of the votes late Sunday, alleging widespread fraud.

The move followed a massive rally Saturday by Lopez Obrador supporters, who filled the streets of downtown Mexico city by the tens-of-thousands.

They are angry that Felipe Calderon, the candidate of the ruling National Action Party, was declared the winner last week by Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute. Calderon won the vote count by just under a percentage point, less than 244,000 votes.

Despite Lopez Obrador's allegations of voter fraud, European Union election observers have said they found no significant irregularities.

At a recent seminar at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister of Mexico in the ruling party, said it is clear who won the July 2 election.

"I do not think there is any doubt, nor should there be any doubt, that the winner of the elections is Felipe Calderon," he said. "It is a settled question, in the sense that the votes have been counted twice now already. The advantage for Calderon has been the same in the two votes."

Aside from the internal drama going on over the implications of an electoral fight, the biggest concern among participants at the seminar was how the incoming administration will work with the United States. All agreed that the United States has vital interests in Mexico.

"Take for example, the 40 million Latinos living in the United States, comprising more than 14 percent of the overall population, nearly two-thirds of whom trace their origins to Mexico," said Dan Restrepo, moderator and senior policy director for the Center for American Progress. "By 2040, the percentage of Hispanics in the United States will be more than 25 percent. Two of the top four U.S. suppliers, one of which is Mexico, are from Latin America. "

And he adds the top two U.S. trading partners, one being Mexico, are hemispheric neighbors.

There was also consensus among the experts that Mexico, except for the immigration issues, does not seem to be high on the agenda of the Bush administration.

Arturo Valenzuela of Georgetown University in Washington argues the fundamental problem is that the United States does not think of Mexico strategically.

"And it makes it very difficult to think of our own [US] interests with regard to Mexico," he said. "Instead of making a ledger, you know, all the things we need to do in order to pursue our interests in Mexico, we forget about that ledger entirely, and we look at how we can advance our own partial domestic kinds of interests in relationship with Mexico. And there is nothing clearer than the immigration debate to make that point. "

U.S. lawmakers have been heatedly debating immigration reform. The Bush administration wants a new law that would include a guest-worker proposal, under which millions of illegal immigrants would have an opportunity to pursue citizenship under certain conditions. The Bush proposal would also boost border security with U.S. troops.

Armando Guzman, bureau chief of TV Azteca in Washington underscored that point when describing a press conference held last week by President Bush in Chicago.

"The press conference lasted more than one hour," he said. "And it was centered on foreign policy. And with all this turmoil and questions not answered fully yet regarding the Mexican elections, do you know how many questions he got about this issue or Mexico itself? Zero. And, so, this makes me think [about] the way I am asked when I am in Mexico, and people come to me and say, 'What do they say about us in Washington?' And I say, "Nothing!"

Meanwhile, opposition candidate Lopez Obrador is also calling for more street demonstrations in addition to his legal petitions.

It appears the drama of the Mexican elections will go on for some time, because the Federal Electoral Tribunal cannot declare a winner until all legal challenges are resolved. Under Mexican law, they are obligated to review the complaints, but must declare a winner by September 6.