Mexico’s highest electoral authority declared on Friday that Enrique Pena Nieto was the legitimate winner of the July 1 presidential election, formally opening the transition to a new government despite continuing claims of fraud by the left-wing second-place finisher.
The Federal Electoral Tribunal said leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador failed to prove claims that vote-buying had affected the results of the vote that returns the former autocratic ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), to Mexico’s highest office after a 12-year absence. Nieto, 46, insists that the PRI has changed. In the final decades of the 20th century, its rule was marked by corruption, vote fraud and periodic economic crises.
“Mexico will have a modern, responsible presidency, open to criticism, willing to listen and take into account all Mexicans,” Pena Nieto said at a ceremony in which the tribunal gave him the document certifying him as president-elect.
Outgoing President Felipe Calderon phoned Pena Nieto to congratulate him and wish him the best for his administration that is set to begin when he takes office on Dec. 1. Calderon “offered his support so that that the administration will be successful,” the president’s office said in a statement.
Lopez Obrador told reporters on Friday morning that he refused to recognize the election results and was calling for a peaceful protest that he described as “civil disobedience” on Sept. 9 in the Zocalo, the historic plaza in the heart of central Mexico City. He launched street demonstrations that paralyzed downtown Mexico City after he lost the 2006 vote, but widespread protests appear far less likely this time.
Lopez Obrador said the electoral tribunal made an illegitimate ruling on Thursday evening when it rejected the leftist’s allegations of vote-buying and other campaign violations by the PRI. The seven electoral magistrates are nominated by Mexico’s Supreme Court and confirmed by Congress and are widely seen as credible and non-partisan, although Lopez Obrador has alleged that several members were biased in favor of the PRI.
“I am telling the people of Mexico that I cannot accept the judgement of the electoral tribunal that declared the presidential election valid,” Lopez Obrador said at a news conference. “The elections were not clean, free and genuine. As a result, I will not recognize an illegitimate power that’s emerged as a result of vote-buying and other grave violations of the constitution and the law.”
Lopez Obrador, a popular former mayor of Mexico City, was able to call hundreds of thousands into the streets for campaign rallies and he retains a large and fervent base of support in the capital, but Pena Nieto’s margin of more than 3 million votes was far wider than the few hundred thousand votes that cost Lopez Obrador the last presidential vote and many opponents’ outrage at Pena Nieto’s win appears to have largely faded since the July 1 vote.
Lopez Obrador said he wants the protest to respect the law and he did not indicate that there would be a repeat of the blockades he launched in 2006.
By Friday afternoon, there were a few scattered protests around the capital by Lopez Obrador sympathizers, including a brief blockage of highway toll booths by a group of students, but little evidence of widespread mobilization.