After two months sifting through allegations of fraud and
recounting ballots in a process that echoed the US election in 2000,
Tuesday Mexico's top electoral court certified conservative Felipe
Calderon as the nation's new president. The decision cannot be
While the postelectoral saga has come to a close, there is no
storybook ending to Mexico's closest presidential race in history.
The challenges for Mr. Calderon, a bespectacled lawyer who has
been called a bookworm, remain formidable. Some say his political
savvy and a shift in the congressional balance of power might make
it easier to push through the energy, labor, and fiscal reforms that
eluded President Vicente Fox. But his skills at negotiation and
patience, as he seeks to unify a deeply divided country, will be
Unlike Al Gore in 2000, Mexico's runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador (aka AMLO) has refused to concede defeat. The populist
leader - who has slept in a tent with his followers in the middle of
Mexico City for more than a month - has vowed to set up a "parallel"
government and says that Mexico needs a "revolution."
On Friday, legislators from Mr. Obrador's Democratic Revolution
Party (PRD) took the podium where President Fox was supposed to
deliver his final state-of-the-nation address. He had to retreat
instead, giving his speech via television later in the evening - an
event that, fraught with drama, has added to the polarization of the
"At the end of the day Mexicans are going to have to put
postelectoral politics aside and move on and start focusing on
issues that have to be addressed if Mexico is going to be successful
in the 21st century," says Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, a Mexico
scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
Washington. "Lopez Obrador is going to have an influence, no
question, and Felipe Calderon is going to have to try and not get
distracted and try to stay on course."
On the campaign trail, Calderon said he would focus on jobs,
promising to remain a firm US ally and maintain the free trade
policies championed by Fox.
Yet, in part because of the vocal opposition of Obrador, he will
also have to focus on the fact that 50 percent of Mexicans are poor,
and of them, many did not benefit from Fox's friendship with the US.
The election, in which Calderon garnered 233,831 more votes than
Obrador (a margin of victory of just over 0.5 percent), revealed
fractures in Mexican society: the industrial north, which has ben-
efited from NAFTA, went largely to Calderon, while Mexico City and
the poorer, rural south voted for Obrador.
Calderon says he wants to entice businesses to provide more young
people jobs with tax exemptions, and proposes a lower and flat rate
income tax, with none for workers with low salaries. He wants to
expand healthcare services and education, especially in poor and
Such proposals could be easier to realize during this term,
because of the gains the National Action Party (PAN), the party of
both Calderon and Fox, made in Congress, but also because of the
declines of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI),
which fought to block Fox's proposals during the past six years. …