Calderón Wins Mexico Vote

Felipe Calderón, the candidate of incumbent president Vicente Fox’s National Action Party (PAN), has been declared the winner of Mexico’s presidential election by the country’s independent election commission:

After days of uncertainty, election officials declared Thursday that Felipe Calderón, a conservative, had won the race for president by less than 1 percent of the official count. His leftist rival refused to accept the results and vowed to go to court and demand a recount.

As he pulled ahead in a tally overnight that entranced the nation, Mr. Calderón said he would fight to keep his victory, however narrow, over the populist former Mexico City mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Election officials said Mr. Calderón had won by 243,000 votes out of 41 million cast on Sunday. …

The official tally opened a new phase in the bruising political battle between the men. Mr. López Obrador’s refusal to concede defeat set the stage for a legal challenge that could take weeks to decide who would be the next president.

He called on his supporters to rally in the historic central square of the capital on Saturday in a show of strength that suggested he would use huge street demonstrations to put public pressure on the court to grant his request for a recount.

“We cannot accept these results,” Mr. López Obrador, 52, declared. “We are going to ask for clarity. We are going to ask for a vote count, polling place by polling place.”

Mr. López Obrador’s determination to challenge the results means that a special Federal Electoral Tribunal, set up to handle electoral disputes, will end up deciding whether there will be a recount. Some legal scholars said that while that outcome was unlikely, it was not impossible.

Assuming that the challenge by López Obrador (popularly nicknamed “AMLO,” by his initials) is unsuccessful, Calderón will take office in December for a six-year term with no possibility of reelection. Even if AMLO were to somehow overturn the results, the impact on US-Mexican relations would probably be minimal–both candidates staked out similar positions (which mirrored those of the Fox administration) on the issues of immigration and border security, and while AMLO is something of a populist, there is little concern that he would turn out to be another Hugo Chávez in office.

Elsewhere: Matthew Shugart considers the likelihood of an AMLO challenge succeeding, while Greg Weeks is unimpressed by the continuing simplistic portrayal of Latin American politics in U.S. media.

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Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. My biggest concern is that large demonstrations on Saturday becomes the start of a long contentious process. A recount for a vote separate by less than 1% is not unreasonable. I think some states grant that as an absolute right, but expect the challenger to pay if the recount doesn’t change the results. But depending on how the protests go, we may be seeing an opening to how the democrats would react to a 2008 loss (especially a close one). Given no incumbency, its hard to predict how this would work out. I am partisan enough to think that the conservative candidate will have the edge (any objective measure I have seen says there are more self identified conservatives than liberals out there), but I recognize that it will be a tough race and likely to be a close contest. Would the democrats be able to peacefully accept a close race decided by this kind of margin in a key state? I would like to think so, but have my doubts.

  2. Andrea Lara says:

    It is not the 0.58% of difference in votes what is causing the protests in Mexico. However, irregularities during the electoral journey were documented (including the illegal handling of the ballots covered by a disinformation campaign lead by the principal TV stations). These complaints have been turned to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE) and this organism has until September the 6th to emit a final resolution. Meanwhile, Mexico doesn’t have an elected president… Furthermore, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not a populist; he is trying to hear the voices of the people that have been historically ignored by businessmen and politicians looking for their own welfare.