Mexican Electoral Court to Make Presidential Election Decision

Mexico at last will have a final decision Tuesday on its disputed July 2 presidential race, with the nation's top electoral court expected to declare ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon president-elect.

But the long-awaited ruling by the Federal Electoral Tribunal — which comes two months, three days, and tens of thousands of pages of legal challenges after voters cast their ballots — is unlikely to end potentially explosive uncertainty or close the growing political divide gripping the country.

Most court rulings so far have favored Calderon, who has a 240,000-vote advantage over leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. CountryWatch: Mexico

"We are very calm, very sure," Juan Camilo Mourino, who heads Calderon's transition team, said on Monday. "Tomorrow, Felipe Calderon will be president-elect."

During an early morning session Tuesday, the seven magistrates of the Federal Electoral Tribunal will give their final count in the election and decide whether it was valid. While they have the power to annul the election, nothing indicates they plan to do so. The court's decision cannot be appealed.

Lopez Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City mayor to run for president, already has said he won't accept a ruling against him and is moving forward with plans to establish a parallel government.

"The court is going to say 'The election was valid and Calderon is the president and that's the end of it,"' said political analyst Oscar Aguilar. "But that won't turn the page. That won't end anything."

For weeks, thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters have blocked Mexico City's stylish Reforma boulevard and set up a protest camp that has engulfed the capital's historic central plaza. They claim fraud, illicit government spending and dirty tricks swayed the election in favor of Calderon, a member of Fox's National Action Party.

Mexican presidents are limited by the constitution to a single six-year term, and Fox leaves office Dec. 1.

Protesters say they won't go home until Lopez Obrador is declared president — and a court ruling in Calderon's favor will just fuel their fight.

Gabriel Juarez, who was among those blocking Reforma, said Fox's administration has pressured the court to favor Calderon.

"Its rulings are lies," the 70-year-old retiree said.

Business leaders said Monday they plan to file lawsuits against Mexico City's government and Lopez Obrador's party, alleging they are responsible for $369 million in lost revenues due to the protests. Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party controls the capital's government and has refused to remove the protesters, supplying them with electricity and police protection.

Tensions spilled from the streets to the halls of Congress on Friday, when lawmakers from Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party seized the podium of the legislature and blocked Fox from delivering his final state-of-the-nation address.

Homero Aridjis, a novelist and newspaper columnist, said increasingly fiery rhetoric from Lopez Obrador and his supporters have some in Mexico worried about an armed rebellion.

An official count gave Calderon a lead of 244,000 votes — about 0.6 percent of all ballots cast. Last month, a partial recount overseen by the court's seven judges reduced Calderon's advantage by only 4,000 votes.

Calderon may appear at the court Tuesday so the judges can officially declare him a winner — a ceremony Democratic Revolution leaders have vowed to block. The party also has pledged to keep Calderon from being sworn in before Congress on Dec. 1.

Fox spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Monday that "there was no way" protesters could prohibit the presidential handover from taking place. He said the federal government had ways to ensure the president-elect takes office, but refused to elaborate.

"We will reserve them until the appropriate time, but there are ways to ensure that the letter of our laws and our constitution are followed and there will be a handover of power to the president-elect without a doubt," he said.

Another potentially explosive confrontation could come well before inauguration day. Shortly before midnight Sept. 15, Fox is expected to visit the capital's central plaza to yell "Viva Mexico!" and kick off the country's Independence Day celebrations. But the city center has been overrun by protesters supporting Lopez Obrador who may try to keep him from speaking.

"For Mexico, in historical terms, that could be like a political Waterloo," Aridjis said. "A lot of things will be decided. It could be the final political defeat for Fox, or the moment in which he regains a little credibility."

Lopez Obrador also plans to convene a national convention of his supporters on Sept. 16 to decide if he should declare himself head of a parallel government.

Fox, speaking to new military recruits on Monday, called for national unity.

"Mexico is a generous nation where there is room for all of us," he said. CountryWatch: Mexico