MEXICO CITY – Mexico's top electoral judges suggested Monday that the 375 challenges to the July 2 election won't reverse the outcome — indicating that Felipe Calderon will likely be Mexico's next president.
But the seven judges adjourned their session without making public their final ruling. They have until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election.
Several of the judges defended their work in an open session Monday as dozens of protesters pressed against the courthouse gates, demanding that the election be given to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador despite a 244,000 vote advantage for the ruling party's Calderon.
"Tolerance, the ability to listen, has prevailed over everything else," chief justice Leonel Castillo said.
He praised court officials, saying some had worked 20-hour days to review huge stacks of evidence submitted by both leading parties. All of the challenges are now resolved, the court said.
But the judges refused to summarize their findings. Many had also assumed the court would release the results of the partial recount it ordered on Aug. 5. Instead, judges who divided the challenged districts among themselves, each spoke about their individual findings, none of which appeared to significantly alter the outcome.
Magistrate Alfonsina Berta Navarro said her part of the review — 25 of the 149 districts — showed the leftists dropping further behind: the ruling National Action Party lost 15,825 votes and Lopez Obrador's coalition lost 16,469.
And Judge Jose Luna said that in his districts, all parties lost votes — more than 19,000 in all — but the percentages remained largely unchanged.
"All the parties lost a considerable amount of votes but that did not affect the results," he said.
The judges repeatedly said they could annul votes only when it wasn't clear which party the voter was supporting, saying each challenge had to be specific and backed up by evidence.
"You can't just say: 'Well, there were irregularities,"' Castillo said, an apparent jab at Lopez Obrador's strategy of criticizing the electoral process generally and demanding a complete recount. The judges rejected that plea on Aug. 5, saying it was unnecessary and even illegal.
Lopez Obrador claims fraud gave Calderon the edge of less than 0.6 percent. He has led street demonstrations and set up protest camps that have snarled traffic. He said Sunday he would ask his supporters during a rally on Sept. 16 — Mexico's Independence Day — whether he should declare himself the "alternative" president-elect.
The former Mexico City mayor seems to have little hope the court will rule in his favor. On Monday, his party's spokesman, Gerardo Fernandez, told hundreds manning protest camps in Mexico City's Zocalo plaza: "It's clear the tribunal isn't up to the task. It's preparing to impose the right's candidate."
But some of Lopez Obrador's supporters were still optimistic.
"I believe they will give a good ruling, a ruling in favor of the people," said Elvia Araujo, a health clinic volunteer from the neighboring state of Mexico.
President Vicente Fox leaves office Dec. 1, like all Mexican presidents limited to a single, six-year term.