Leftist leader trailing in Mexico election but won't concede
MEXICO CITY — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the veteran leftist leader in second place in Mexico's presidential election, says he will wait for a final vote count before deciding whether to concede.
As hundreds of ardent supporters chanted and rallied in an impromptu demonstration outside a downtown hotel early Monday, Lopez Obrador took to a modest podium. His speech was brief and simple, his mood mellow.
He announced that he would not concede defeat on election night in Mexico. For many, it was a flashback to 2006, the last presidential election in which Lopez Obrador refused to accept defeat, declaring fraud and sparking a series of protests that paralyzed Mexico City.
"The position that I assume is to wait," Lopez Obrador said before media and supporters in a ballroom at a downtown Hilton Hotel. "We need to know all the results. We're going to wait for those results before making any final positions. There is no final word yet."
But in a way, there was a final word. Just moments earlier, shortly after a speech by the head of the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, a smiling President Felipe Calderon went on national television to announce that the institute's "fast count" had a winner, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI.
Lopez Obrador, upstaging the man who ultimately defeated him in 2006, began his speech before Calderon had finished his, forcing media networks to momentarily scramble between the two feeds.
"I'm not disqualifying what is being said officially, there is simply not enough information," Lopez Obrador calmly stated. "We will not in any way act irresponsibly."
The 58-year-old former mayor of Mexico City had kept much of the country in suspense Sunday in the hours after candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota of Calderon's ruling National Action Party (PAN) conceded. Lopez Obrador held what was described as an emergency meeting with senior figures in his Democratic Revolution Party at campaign headquarters in the Roma district. By 11 p.m., he was on his way downtown, as supporters gathered and chanted, "It's an honor to be with Lopez Obrador!"
His announcement came as the IFE preliminary count showed a narrowing between Lopez Obrador and Peña Nieto. At one point, it reached a difference of just 3.3%. Later Monday morning, with about 80% of the vote tallied, the margin stood at about 5%.
Campaign members said Lopez Obrador was making a good decision, and that fears of another planton protest camp in Mexico City (akin to a permanent sit-in) would be unfounded. But they also didn't discount the prospect of contesting the vote to the last possible moment, when the president-elect is formally recognized by Congress in the fall.
"In 2006 there were doubts about the result; what we have now is a start" to the vote-counting, said Oscar Mondragon, the campaign's social-media strategist. "We're halfway through a process that will finish in September."
Peña Nieto, meanwhile, wasted no time in claiming victory and seeking to allay fears about his party's authoritarian past. He pledged to rule on behalf of all Mexicans and to lead a government willing to listen to criticism.
"We're a new generation," he said. "There is no return to the past."
— Daniel Hernandez