It is long past time for former leftist Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to call off the massive (and mostly peaceful) protests that have tied up traffic and shuttered businesses in central Mexico City.
One can understand some of the frustrations. Out of some 41 million votes cast in the July 2 election, the more conservative Felipe Calderon prevailed by the margin of 243,000 votes, or 0.58 percent. So close, so tantalizingly close.
Lopez Obrador may be convinced himself — he has certainly convinced many thousands of his supporters — that this margin is the result of fraud. And there have almost certainly been electoral frauds in Mexico’s past. Lopez Obrador supporters have camped out and demonstrated continuously since preliminary results were announced in July, demanding a full recount.
But Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, which has a decent reputation of calling out fraud and rescheduling elections against the interests of several parties during its 10 years of existence, has investigated this year’s presidential election and ruled otherwise. The election institute’s most recent ruling determined there were mistakes, which subtracted some votes from both leading candidates, but nowhere near enough to flip the election to Lopez Obrador. It is scheduled to make a final ruling Wednesday.
If it rules in favor of Calderon, Lopez Obrador has vowed to form a “parallel government” that would contest the new president at every turn, and perhaps even assume some of the functions of government. Some supporters have even said they would urge people to send their taxes to the “parallel” government so it could deliver services.
The idea of having two different governments competing for tax money is intriguing, but doing it through a group of protesters rather than through an established set of institutions (which we have a hard time envisioning) is a recipe for chaos rather than orderly competition.
It is long past time for Lopez Obrador to announce that he will abide by the results to be announced Wednesday. If he wants to form a new protest institution after that, fine. But he entered the game of democracy, and he should abide by the rules.
The ongoing protests are not only dividing Mexico but alienating many Mexicans. In the July 2 election, with five parties, Lopez Obrador and Calderon each got 35 percent of the vote. A new poll done for the newspaper Reforma shows that if the election were held today, Calderon would win by a 43 percent to 29 percent. It also shows 69 percent of Mexicans oppose a national convention to make Lopez Obrador the “parallel” president.
Time to let it go.