MEXICO CITY (AP) — Four days before Mexico’s presidential election, much of the nation’s attention is focused on a man who appears certain to lose.
That man is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the fiery, feisty leftist who shut down the heart of Mexico City after the last election with mass protests against a narrow loss that he blamed on electoral fraud.
Final polls released Wednesday showed Lopez Obrador in second place, with the candidate of Mexico’s former ruling party, Enrique Pena Nieto, anywhere from 8 to 17 percentage points in the lead.
As a result, few expect anything other than a Pena Nieto victory that will return the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to the presidency after 12 years out of the nation’s highest office.
What remains in doubt for millions of Mexicans is, will Lopez Obrador quietly accept defeat? Or will he call his followers back to the streets for a repeat of the 2006 allegations of fraud, and protests that shut down the heart of the capital for weeks and shook the faith of many, at home and abroad, in the stability of Mexico’s young democracy?
In that last run, Lopez Obrador led until the final days and his backers could not believe the official result showing him less than 1 percentage point short of victor Felipe Calderon, though electoral courts upheld it. Lopez Obrador declared himself the “legitimate president of Mexico,” named a Cabinet and toured the country to rally backers.
As his final campaign act this year, Lopez Obrador led thousands of people on a march Wednesday afternoon that many see as an uncomfortable echo of the last electoral battle.
Supporters waving the yellow flags of his party and wearing Lopez Obrador T-shirts shouted, “President! President! You are the President!” as they lined four lanes of Mexico City’s central Reforma boulevard and headed to the Zocalo, the centuries-old square in the center of downtown that has served as the base for many of his protests.
Some of his supporters brought their pets, among them a white bull terrier with a message written on its side that read “a dog’s life no more.”
There were so many followers trying to get near Lopez Obrador that at one point of the march his security team had to take him out of the crowd through a hole they tore in a construction fencing around the Alameda park.
Maria Antonia Bedolla, a 37-year-old housewife at the march, said she is ready to take to the streets if Lopez Obrador loses again.
“He will win if they don’t steal (the election) from us like they did six years ago,” Bedolla said. If he loses “I will express my discontent about the fraud.”
Lopez Obrador softened his rhetoric at the start of this three-month campaign, saying he wants to build a “Republic of Love” marked by reconciliation and peace. In recent days he has been pledging, when pressed, that he will respect the will of the people, though he asserts he is ahead.
But the former Mexico City mayor has also been launching sharp attacks on Pena Nieto and the PRI, and routinely expressing grave doubts about the validity of the electoral process and the potential for fraud.
He called Tuesday for supporters to closely monitor polling stations.
“These days we’re preparing ourselves to defend the vote, so another electoral fraud isn’t committed,” Lopez Obrador told a crowd of backers.
Luis Rubio, president of the Center for Development Research, an independent think tank, said that Lopez Obrador has been “anticipating the alleged fraud for weeks. The notion that there is fraud is alive and well in his rhetoric.”
“Lopez Obrador is Lopez Obrador and he will not recognize the result no matter what,” Rubio said.
Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute was pressuring the candidates Wednesday to sign a “civility pact” committing them to respect the legitimacy and legality of Sunday’s election results, a document that appeared squarely aimed at Lopez Obrador. The leftist has pledged that he or a campaign adviser would sign the pact in coming days.
“We are counting on the maturity and democratic spirit of each of the candidates,” Deputy Interior Secretary Obdulio Avila told The Associated Press. “We expect that the free will of the people will be reflected in the vote, and that will be accepted by all the participants.”
Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, president of the PRI, told reporters that the pledge “is a guarantee that will avoid a post-electoral conflict. The country doesn’t deserve to live through the nightmare of the last six years.”
Rubio said any new protests may not grow to anywhere near the size of those in 2006. Many Mexicans will have no tolerance for a repeat, among them the politically ambitious mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, who is widely seen as the future of Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party.
“If they do what they did six years ago, it’ll hurt me,” said Humberto Ruiz Gamino, who sells fresh-cut mangos along Reforma. “I have a lot of ripe mangos, and if they organize protests, I’m going to lose a lot of business.”
A wide margin of defeat would also sap the energy of any protest.
The polls show Pena Nieto favored by 32.2 percent to 41.2 percent of voters, in polls with margins of error ranging from 2.5 to 3 percent.
Lopez Obrador had support ranging from 23.8 to 25.4 percent. Josefina Vaquez Mota of the conservative National Action Party was third with support ranging from 18.8 to 20.8 percent.
Rubio also said that Lopez Obrador could be bolstered by a recent surge of antipathy toward the PRI, which ruled Mexico with a near total control for seven decades. That hostility has been most vocal among a national student movement that began with a protest against Pena Nieto at a private Mexico City university.
Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson, E. Eduardo Castillo and Adriana Gomez Licon contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11