September 5, 2006

Mexico court decision backs Calderon victory

By Catherine Bremer

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Conservative ruling party candidate
Felipe Calderon won Mexico's ferociously contested July 2
presidential election, the country's top electoral court said
in a preliminary ruling on Tuesday.

The court's seven judges still must to vote on the draft
decision later in the day and decide whether the election was
clean, but they were widely expected to confirm Calderon's
narrow victory over his leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador, who claims the vote was rigged against him.

The draft, drawn up by two of the seven magistrates, said
Calderon had a winning margin of almost 234,000 votes.

That is around 10,000 votes less than the original margin
of victory and follows recounts at around 9 percent of polling
stations and the annulment of some ballot boxes.

The court's rulings cannot be appealed but Lopez Obrador
has no intention of giving up his fight to overturn the
election result.

Backed by supporters who have blockaded central Mexico City
for the past month, the leftist former mayor of the capital
says he will never recognize Calderon as president and has
vowed to set up a parallel government.

Calderon's victory would be a boost to the United States as
he will be a key ally in Latin America, where several left-wing
leaders critical of Washington have taken power in recent

A Harvard-educated conservative and former energy minister,
the 44-year-old Calderon was also the candidate of Wall Street
and Mexico's financial markets.


Calderon plans to cut deals with centrist opposition
parties to push pro-business tax, labor and energy reforms
through Congress, where his National Action Party is the
biggest party but is still way short of a majority.

Still, his first challenge could well be to stave off
massive street protests and win over some of the 30 percent or
more of Mexicans who believe he stole the election.

Juan Camilo Mourino, who is leading Calderon's transition
team, said the new government would make the fight against
poverty a central theme in an attempt to win over the millions
who voted for Lopez Obrador.

"Without a doubt the next government of Mexico must have a
clear social leaning," he said.

An ugly election campaign dominated by attack ads and two
months of street protests and angry allegations of vote-rigging
have split Mexico and raised fears of violence.

Just six years ago, many Mexicans were euphoric after
President Vicente Fox's historic election victory ended decades
of one-party rule, but this year's vote reopened deep class
divisions that have undermined Mexico's young democracy.

Lopez Obrador calls Fox a "traitor to democracy," alleging
he broke Mexico's strict election laws by backing Calderon's
campaign while business leaders also threw money at the ruling
party conservative.