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Calderon Consolidates Position As Winner of Mexican Presidential Election

In Mexico, leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues his efforts to challenge the narrow result from July 2 election that gave victory to ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon. Meanwhile, Calderon is acting more and more like a president elect.

Speaking to reporters in Mexico City Tuesday, Felipe Calderon called for calm ahead of protests and said he thought Lopez Obrador was making a mistake in promoting the turmoil.

He said by promoting demonstrations, Lopez Obrador would lose much of the political capital he gained in the election, especially after having made pledges to honor the results even if he lost by a single vote.

Lopez Obrador, for his part, continues to claim the election was rigged.

He says some of his own representatives may have taken bribes to allow vote tampering.

But while his followers express faith in these accusations, there is evidence the public at large is growing tired of the complaints. On Monday, Lopez Obrador played a video for reporters that he said showed a ruling party representative stuffing ballots in a box. But the electoral institute later released a statement with documented evidence to demonstrate that what was shown on the video tape was nothing more than the transfer of misplaced presidential votes from a box marked for deputy votes.

Leaders of some other political parties, including the once powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, have recognized Calderon as the winner. President Bush as well as a number of other leaders from the Americas and Europe have called Calderon to offer their congratulations.

A close observer of Mexican politics here in the United States, Professor George Grayson of the College of William and Mary, says Lopez Obrador is looking more and more like a sore loser. But Professor Grayson says the populist candidate of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, did make an important contribution to the electoral contest.

"Lopez Obrador, in getting about a third of the vote, really did put on the map the issue of the profound poverty in Mexico and also the stark inequality that finds ten percent of the elite owning 45 percent of the wealth,"said George Grayson.

Grayson says he believes Calderon will weather the storm of protests called for by Lopez Obrador. He also believes Calderon will build an effective government of unity by appealing for support from state governors from the PRI and even the PRD.

"The governors actually handpicked many of the newly elected senators and deputies and so, I think, Calderon will focus on the governors, who, in turn, will encourage legislators from their state to back his initiatives in return for having their state's projects addressed," he said.

In this way, Grayson believes, Calderon will succeed where current president Vicente Fox failed in getting fiscal reform, judicial reform and energy reform through a divided congress.

But Grayson disagrees with those who worry that the agenda of the poor championed by Lopez Obrador will suffer neglect under Calderon.

"Calderon is a modern person," noted George Grayson. "He knows that there have to be profound structural changes and he also has a social Christian outlook. So he is going to be supporting programs that uplift the poor and try to make a better life for those who have been excluded from the mainstream of Mexican society."

Of course, all of that is still a long way off. The Mexican electoral tribunal must first rule on the complaints of irregularities and declare the official winner of the election on September 6. But the new president will not take power until the first of December.