July 16, 2006

Huge protest in Mexico backs leftist

By Alistair Bell and Noel Randewich

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The leftist candidate claiming
fraud in Mexico's presidential election two weeks ago led tens
of thousands of supporters through the capital on Sunday to
pressure a court to order a recount.

Losing leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
flashed smiles and gave the thumbs-up sign as he marched with
throngs of people along the main Reforma avenue toward the
Zocalo square downtown.

"You are not alone," chanted supporters, dressed in the
yellow of his Party of the Democratic Revolution. Some shot
fireworks in the air.

A court is investigating complaints by Lopez Obrador, the
former mayor of Mexico City, that conservative candidate Felipe
Calderon, the government and electoral officials stole the
presidency from him through fraud at the July 2 election.

European Union observers say there was no major fraud.

Calderon came from behind in opinion polls to win by a
fraction of a percentage point. The court must rule by early
September on the legality of the election, which split the
nation between right and left only six years after the election

of President Vicente Fox ended 71 years of single-party
rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

"I feel sad, angry and impotent because the people's will
was not respected," said protester Salvador Torres.

Lopez Obrador pulled a crowd of 100,000 protesters last
weekend and organizers of Sunday's demonstration predicted it
would be much bigger.

Protesters were to walk past the U.S. Embassy,
international hotels and a business district before listening
to Lopez Obrador speak in the Zocalo.


Calderon, a former energy minister, has called for calm.

The Zocalo, once the center of the Aztec world and now home
to the National Palace seat of government and the city's
Spanish colonial cathedral has become the focus of protests to
back Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer.

"We'll move in and live here if need be," said leftist Juan
Carlos Escandon, who was gathering signatures in favor of Lopez
Obrador in the Zocalo.

"The Mexican constitution says sovereignty rests with the
people, not the courts, and we are the people," he said.

But despite Lopez Obrador's ability to put his supporters
on the streets, a poll in the Reforma newspaper on Saturday
showed most Mexicans do not agree with his call for a recount.

He has asked the electoral court to carry out a
vote-for-vote recount, beyond the original count and the tally
sheet recount last week that showed Calderon the winner.

Sixty percent of people polled by Reforma said they did not
want a new recount, compared to 37 percent who backed Lopez
Obrador's proposal.

The question put to interviewees in the poll did not
mention the allegations of fraud. It only asked if the votes
should be counted a third time.

Most people believe the election results are trustworthy
and 75 percent think the Federal Electoral Institute that
organized the vote is impartial, the poll showed.