Mexican conundrum

A MONTH after the presidential election, Mexico’s political pot is still boiling, with daily demonstrations by supporters of the leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador demanding a recount of the vote.

Lopez Obrador, former Mexico City mayor, has lost his presidential bid in the July 2 poll to his Conservative opponent Felipe Calderon, former energy secretary, by about 240,000 votes. But the official results are awaiting the Federal Electoral Tribunal’s validation.

Mexico’s democratic record, compared to some of its neighbours, is impeccable. It is the only Latin American country not to have a military dictatorship in the post-war period. And, Mexicans value their democratic institutions. So it’s a trifle surprising why the former mayor has chosen the path of confrontation. Is it in the true spirit of a defeated political leader over loss of power by a small margin? Could be. Obrador has challenged the official result, alleging the vote had been rigged. The poll body that rules on election disputes has time until month end to probe the charges and declare a winner by September 6.

But the leftist leader and his supporters are not prepared to wait until the verdict. The current protests are obviously aimed at putting pressure on the tribunal. But when the main players are bound by the poll body’s rules and regulations and the tribunal itself functions according to its constitution, winners or losers should know they can’t influence the tribunal’s decisions in any way.

Blocking roads, taking out rallies, obstructing the stock exchange work, and disrupting daily life can’t reverse the fortunes of a candidate whose fate has already been sealed in the ballot box. These obtrusive actions, instead of garnering public support and gaining people’s sympathy, could only help in alienating those the party professes to represent.

Mexican politicians should take a leaf out of its big neighbour’s book when George W Bush edged out Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore by a few hundred votes. Until the Florida vote recount and the Supreme Court verdict, Americans had behaved with dignity and maturity. The freedom of expression and the right to protest are all part of a democratic culture. But they must never be used to espouse unjust and misguided causes. That’s what distinguishes a mature democracy from an immature one.

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