At the beginning of May, with a couple of months to go until the Mexican elections, I interviewed
I had heard it all before, as had the Mexican electorate, which rejected
In filing a court challenge to the election results earlier this month, Lopez Obrador made clear that he is serious about reinforcing at least the "fighter" part of his reputation. But does he really have his country's best interests at heart?
On the evening of the presidential election on July 1, as soon as Mexico's electoral commission announced the results of its widely respected "quick count," the National Action Party's Josefina Vaquez Mota and the New Alliance Party's Gabriel Quadri quickly conceded. Outgoing President
Lopez Obrador, however, held back.
In the days that followed, he rejected not only the "quick count" but also the official final vote tally. He demanded a recount of ballots from polling places overseen by 1 million average citizens. More than half of the ballots were retallied, and once again the count found Peña Nieto leading. Lopez Obrador dismissed that finding as well.
He is now seeking the annulment of the election on every ground he can think of. He has spoken of a sense of general unfairness, of media bias, of the perverse and deliberate inaccuracy of the polls and of what he and his followers have deemed to be "massive vote buying" by the PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for seven decades before being ousted from power in the 2000 presidential election.
The court has until early September to decide whether Lopez Obrador's claims have merit. Meanwhile, his disgruntled supporters are going to Twitter, Facebook and
To prevail, Lopez Obrador would have to prove that the PRI acted illegally in winning the election, that it bribed voters, that the vote count was crooked or that the media acted unscrupulously and illegally in promoting Peña Nieto's candidacy. According to many legal experts, Lopez Obrador is highly unlikely to convince the court. Nor has he been able to sway public opinion: A recent poll by the newspaper Reforma found that two-thirds of Mexicans (including a majority of those in Lopez Obrador's own party) think he should stop his fight.
But if the court's decision doesn't favor him, Lopez Obrador will be faced with a familiar decision: whether to finally accept the verdict of Mexican institutions, or to continue his seemingly interminable battle against them.
One can argue that challenges such as this are healthy and help contribute to the strength of Mexico's democracy. But part of living in a democratic nation is accepting the verdicts of its institutions. If Lopez Obrador were to reject the court's decision and encourage social unrest (however peaceful), that would undermine rather than strengthen the nation's democratic progress.
Since 2000, Mexico has steadily built its democratic institutions, and it has made remarkable progress. That's not to say it is perfect. Money still flows under the table and votes are still bought. The political parties have, unfortunately, gained some influence over the country's election commission, which is supposed to be independent. But things are nevertheless far better than they were.
If the law was broken in the election, the nation's courts should intervene. But if they rule that the election violated no laws, Lopez Obrador should accept the will of the majority (those 18 million voters he has called "masochists"). If he thinks Mexican election laws need changing to strengthen the democratic process, then he should work through the system to effect those changes.
Taking the high road is never easy, but there are politicians who have done it admirably. In 2000,
For a man groomed for the presidency from an early age, capitulation must have been extremely difficult. Still, Gore did what he felt was best for the country and its democratic institutions. If Lopez Obrador needs a model, he need look no further than Gore.