Monday, September 18, 2006

Mexican Politics

How politics are done
in Mexico
“We are tired of a Mexico that just helps the rich, the big companies. Those of us who are here asking for justice are the poor, the lower class."

The article below tells some of the details of Mexicos struggle with an election fraud and how it is being handled. The article is biased but one can get the feel for what is happening.

Analysts see shrewd strategy in Mexico

MEXICO CITY – September 18, 2006

Mexico awoke yesterday with a new political dilemma: The country now has two presidents-elect, one of them chosen at the ballot box and the other self-anointed.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist who lost the July 2 election, was proclaimed Mexico's "legitimate president" by nearly 200,000 supporters Saturday at a carefully orchestrated rally in Mexico City's historic central plaza.

In a moment of high theater, López Obrador asked his supporters to help him choose the date for his inauguration. After a show of hands, they chose Nov. 20 – a national holiday commemorating the Mexican Revolution. To heighten the drama, López Obrador will be "sworn in" 12 days before Felipe Calderón, the conservative from President Vicente Fox's National Action Party who won the election by 234,000 votes.

Although López Obrador's decision to appoint himself president will not be recognized by the Congress or by a majority of Mexicans, he plans to set up a "parallel government" complete with a Cabinet. He said he would end the marches and sit-ins in Mexico City and launch a nationwide movement.

"He's very canny at making news, at getting media attention, at saying things that at first sound outrageous but that are actually very carefully crafted," said political analyst Federico Estevez.

"Whether he should be called a virtual president or just the leader of the movement, it's all sort of nonsense. He can be offered crowns in the plaza but it just doesn't make any difference. He's obviously not the president. His big offensive is over in the capital city. He's cutting it off while he still has some political capital."

As he travels across Mexico, López Obrador says his objective will be to "observe, listen and capture the feelings of all the sectors and all the regions of the country."

He will evoke images of Benito Juárez, Mexico's beloved Indian president who was forced in 1863 to flee the capital and run his government from clandestine locations across the country after the French conquered Mexico and overran Mexico City.
Analysts say, the goal is to draw attention away from Calderón, who will be inaugurated Dec. 1.

Some say López Obrador's new role will be as a critical observer who can comment on the wrongs without being expected to make them right.

"By not having any responsibilities, the opposition can offer options that seem perfect," historian Lorenzo Meyer said. "The best possible government of Felipe Calderón is going to have defects. The opposition can always criticize him because reality is imperfect."

López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, appears to relish such a forum, Meyer said.

"In some ways, he seems happier and freer in this role than in the role of an elected official who has to deal with the bureaucracy of the government," he said.

López Obrador's move from Mexico City to towns and villages in the countryside once again has raised questions about his strategy.

"How long? With what kind of calendar? Is it just a road show or will it be about organizing the movement and allies for the party and another run for the presidency?" Estevez asked.
López Obrador could become a powerful voice for Mexico's poor and oppressed, analysts said.

"He can turn this into a responsible examination of government policies to make sure that Calderón doesn't backslide on his commitment to uplifting the poor," said George Grayson, an expert on Mexico who teaches at the College of William & Mary. "But if he runs around in his own presidential sash, calling his loyalists to demonstrate here and there, he risks becoming a comic figure."

His antics already have cost his Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, much of the gains it made in the months leading up to the election. After winning more seats in the Congress than in any election during its 18-year history, recent polls show the PRD's support sharply eroding.

"The price they're paying for what they've done over the past 2½ months is that their reputation is in tatters," Estevez said. "Their credibility has disappeared and everyone perceives them as unreliable."

Even as PRD legislators search for ways to shore up their credibility, they are threatening to block Calderón's inauguration.

"This is not going to be a normal inauguration for Calderón," Meyer said. "No one knows what the PRD legislators are going to do in the Congress. But they are going to do something."

With Calderón and López Obrador set to be inaugurated in less than three months, Mexicans are bracing for a protracted political crisis.

"It's going to be a long, long war," Meyer said.

By S. Lynne Walker

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