Thousands of supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador protested outside Mexico’s top electoral court on Monday night, demanding a vote-by-vote recount of the July 2 presidential election.
The demonstration comes two days after the Federal Electoral Tribunal ruled that it would only recount ballots at about 9 percent of the nation’s 130,000 polling places, where it said there was evidence that the vote may have been miscounted.
Lopez Obrador said that he will keep protesting until there is a recount of all 41 million ballots cast, and called his followers to the tribunal’s front gates to urge the court to reverse its decision.
Carrying banners with slogans, such as “Vote by vote, poll by poll!” about five thousand protesters blocked traffic on a boulevard outside the court.
“This is just the start of much stronger actions,” said Jose Antonio Valles, a 52-year-old engineer at the protest.
An official count of the election gave ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon an advantage of 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes, over Lopez Obrador.
Rejects partial recount
The leftist candidate claims that a ballot-by-ballot recount would show he was the true winner.
“We do not accept a partial recount. The Mexican people do not want only part of the truth,” Lopez Obrador told the protesters outside the court.
The court’s seven judges are unlikely to be swayed. They voted unanimously for a partial recount that will begin Wednesday and last no longer than five days. They have until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the race.
To press his case, Lopez Obrador has asked his supporters to maintain a weeklong blockade of the capital’s financial and cultural heart that is costing the city an estimated $23 million a day in lost commerce and causing traffic jams throughout the city.
Protesters have set up camps on main avenues and even tried to block the country’s stock exchange.
Although Lopez Obrador has urged them to remain peaceful, many are ready for confrontation.
On Sunday, waiting for Lopez Obrador to speak, they chanted in favor of seizing Mexico City’s international airport and some suggested taking over Congress, moves that would almost certainly trigger confrontations with federal authorities. Security has been increased at both sites.
Lopez Obrador said nothing about the airport or Congress, but he promised “new actions, new measures of civil resistance” and asked his followers “to prepare ourselves for a struggle that may last longer.”
Accuses Fox of improprieties
He accused President Vicente Fox, whose historic victory in 2000 ended 71 years of one-party rule, of using the presidency to ensure his party won the election.
Calderon said Mexico’s institutions were strong enough to survive attacks from “anti-democrats,” an apparent jab at the leftist protest movement.
“The solidness of our institutions has overcome the attacks of anti-democrats, anarchists and intolerance,” Calderon told a gathering of his party’s lawmakers.
Representatives of Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party and Calderon’s National Action Party will observe the partial recount, examining the markings on each ballot and challenging votes where they can.
The process could potentially swing the count in Lopez Obrador’s favor. However, overcoming a 244,000-vote lead by re-examining just 9 percent of the ballots will be difficult.
“I think they might find marginal differences, at best, but I can’t conceive of them finding a real mess,” said political analyst Oscar Aguilar.