Mexico’s president-elect urges unity, rival calls rallyBy Laurent Thomet
MEXICO CITY—Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto called for national unity Friday as he was officially named president-elect after a two-month legal feud, but his leftist rival refused to concede defeat.
The federal electoral tribunal declared Pena Nieto the winner of the July 1 election after dismissing a bid by leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to scrap the result over vote-buying claims.
The ruling clears the way for Pena Nieto to begin his six-year term on December 1, marking the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to the nation’s highest office after a 12-year absence.
“Together, we must overcome our differences to achieve the great feat of transforming Mexico,” he said in a speech after accepting his credentials from the seven-judge tribunal.
“It is time to write a new chapter of success in the history of Mexico,” the former Mexico state governor said.
But Lopez Obrador refused to accept the court’s ruling and called on his followers to gather for a rally at Mexico City’s historic main square, the Zocalo, on September 9 and decide the way forward.
The capital’s former mayor claims that the PRI, which governed Mexico with an iron grip from 1929 to 2000, bought five million votes and violated campaign spending rules in order to secure Pena Nieto’s victory.
“The elections were neither clean nor free nor genuine, therefore I will not recognize an illegitimate administration that emerged from votes that were bought and other grave violations of the constitution,” he told reporters.
“Civil disobedience is an honorable duty when it is aimed against thieves who steal the hope and happiness of the people,” he said. “I call on all supporters of democracy to gather at the Zocalo.”
Lopez Obrador led mass protests that paralyzed Mexico City in 2006 after he lost that year’s election to Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, by a mere 0.06 percentage points.
But he was unable to change the outcome.
This time, the electoral court confirmed that Pena Nieto, who rejected his opponent’s allegations, defeated Lopez Obrador by 3.3 million votes. Pena Nieto won 38.2 percent of the vote, compared to 31.6 percent for Lopez Obrador.
“This electoral process was not free of problems, but they were adequately resolved within the law,” said Judge Maria del Carmen Alanis Figueroa.
Judge Flavio Galvan Rivera said the election was “free, fair and genuine.”
Some 300 protesters demonstrated outside the tribunal, chanting “PRI out!” while some held signs reading “treacherous tribunal.” Some 500 police officers watched passively.
Lopez Obrador’s coalition claimed that the PRI distributed gift cards to voters in return for their votes. The left also charged that children were sent to polling stations to check how people voted.
But the seven-judge electoral court ruled that the leftist coalition failed to prove its allegations.
The PRI’s 71-year rule was marred by allegations of vote-rigging and rampant corruption, but Pena Nieto has promised to break with his party’s checkered past during his six-year term.
Pena Nieto will also inherit a brutal drug war that has left more than 50,000 people dead since 2006.
“Mexico will have a presidency that is modern, responsible, open to criticism, ready to listen and care for all Mexicans,” Pena Nieto said, adding that he would meet with civil society representatives.
“We will launch a new way of governing, meeting the demands of a 21st century Mexico that is pluralistic, demanding and participatory. We move forward together.”