July 8, 2006

Mexico leftist rallies crowds to reverse vote loss

By Alistair Bell

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the
leftist who came second in Mexico's contested presidential
election, plays his trump card on Saturday when he appeals to
the masses to help him overturn his narrow defeat.

Lopez Obrador, who says the election of conservative Felipe
Calderon last Sunday was plagued by irregularities, will put
his case to a large crowd in the capital's Zocalo square.

Popular in Mexico City where he was once mayor, the leftist
can expect at least 100,000 people at a rally he has called for
5 p.m. (2200 GMT).

He has asked a court to rule against Calderon, who is
already looking presidential after a recount gave him victory
on Thursday by less than 1 percentage point.

President Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero, a fellow leftist, dealt fresh blows to
Lopez Obrador when they called his rival on Friday to
congratulate him on the election win.

Lopez Obrador has yet to produce much evidence of
large-scale fraud and a team of European Union observers said
there was no massive vote-rigging or irregularity.

Lopez Obrador, who has stayed mostly out of public view
since Thursday morning, has discouraged violence among
leftists, many of whom remember a 1988 presidential election
widely believed to have been stolen from them by the government
then controlled by the once long-ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

"We are going down the legal and peaceful path," said
Gerardo Fernandez, spokesman for Lopez Obrador's left-wing
Party of the Democratic Revolution.


The left is calling for a vote-for-vote recount, instead of
just a new count of vote tally sheets as happened this week,
even though Mexican law does not allow for a count of every

The Federal Electoral Institute, which ran the election,
said officials from all parties, as well as a million citizens
who were called at random to help out on voting day, staffed
polling stations and few of them reported any problem.

Carlos Sedeno, 31, an architect, said another recount would
be too much. "It's like a vote of no-confidence in everyone who
took part in the electoral process. There were representatives
of all the parties," he said. "It's like doubting everyone's

Lopez Obrador was a master of civil resistance in his
native state of Tabasco in the 1980s and 1990s when he shut
down oil wells and blocked the workings of state government for
weeks to protest vote fraud.

Tens of thousands of households in the state still do not
pay electricity bills as part of a campaign instigated by Lopez
Obrador to complain about a 1994 vote result.

The electoral court has until August 31 to rule on Lopez
Obrador's challenges to the vote and until September 6 to
formally declare the election winner.