The Institutional Revolutionary Party’s Enrique Pena Nieto has twice been declared the winner of Mexico’s presidential election, yet the runner-up, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, refuses to recognize the results. Instead, the leftist candidate is preparing to hold a demonstration Sunday and threatening to establish a kind of shadow presidency, just as he did in 2006, when he narrowly lost that vote.
That’s unfortunate. Mexico can’t afford the kind of long and divisive battle that Lopez Obrador is threatening to wage. The country is already mired in a drug war that has claimed more than 50,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon sent the military into the streets to combat the country’s narco gangs. Corruption is rampant, judicial reforms remain on hold and the economy is sluggish.
No one disputes that Mexico’s electoral process could use improvement. But if Lopez Obrador believes the electoral system is broken, he should work within the political system to fix it. A good place to start would be to craft specific reforms and then press Pena Nieto to enact them through legislation. Staging street protests, however, will only serve to undermine the electoral process and prevent the new government from moving swiftly to tackle the problems facing the country.
During the July 1 elections, there were allegations that some groups distributed gift cards to poor voters, presumably to sway their vote -- and those allegations should of course be investigated. But there is no persuasive evidence that widespread fraud cost Lopez Obrador a chance at the presidency or that the electoral tribunal that reviewed his appeal is a corrupt body, as he has suggested. In fact, the seven magistrates who serve on that court are nominated by the country’s Supreme Court, confirmed by Congress and widely seen as credible, and international observers, including the Organization of American States, praised the election.
Lopez Obrador may well believe he’s helping to protect democracy in Mexico by demanding recounts and challenging its institutions. But what he’s really risking is becoming an irrelevant voice in the political debate. If part of becoming a modern democracy requires clean and transparent elections, then it also requires that candidates accept the outcomes of those elections.