September 5, 2006
The Mexican electoral tribunal ruled unanimously late this afternoon that Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party be certified as the winner of the July 2 presidential election. This decision came shortly after the president of that court, Leonel Castillo, had recommended such a verdict. The judges rejected the various grievances filed by the Party of Democratic Revolution as not being significant enough to affect the outcome. Calderon's official margin of victory was 233,831 votes out of 41.6 million total. Tomorrow was the statutory deadline for the final decision to be rendered. Inauguration Day will be December 1. See BBC.
This will not put an immediate end to the historic dispute, but it will probably begin a deescalation of tensions, as reality sinks in. The leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had already said that he will pay no heed to the electoral court's decision, so the ball is now in his court. As an example of the absurd complaints he has lodged, "Lopez Obrador had argued that an ad campaign comparing him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez illegally affected the elections." It may be a positive sign that AMLO is starting sound less focused on challenging the election results and more focused on "transforming" the country, which may include forming a "parallel government." He will ask his followers what course they want him to follow when they gather at the Zocalo for a convention set for September 16, Independence Day. See CNN.com.
Like George W. Bush, who took office in January 2001 after bitter disputes, Calderon will begin his term with a handicap. He will carry an extra burden of reaching out to the defeated faction, which could get him bogged down if he does not play his political cards astutely. The emphatic rejection of any dialogue or reconciliation by AMLO's Party of Democratic Revolution is both stunning and very telling. Their understanding of the word "democratic" apparently does not include peaceful, orderly, institutionalized resolutions of political disputes.
Few observers have taken note of the low-key approach to the Mexican electoral dispute that the U.S. government has taken. This is one of those situations where the less said, the better. Since Calderon is a pro-business leader with a friendly attitude toward the norteamericanos, the United States will be under pressure to make reciprocal gestures to the new Mexican government, and this may mean concessions on immigration reform.