Tensions remain high in the restive southern state of Oaxaca.
Defeated leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently
declared himself the "legitimate" president. And rival legislators
came to blows this week on the floor of Congress.
There will be no honeymoon for Mexico's conservative president-
elect Felipe Calderon, who takes office Friday after winning the
disputed July 2 election by less than 1 percentage point - a vote
that exposed Mexico's deep political and economic divisions.
The 44-year-old lawyer and former energy minister, a loyal member
of outgoing president Vicente Fox's conservative National Action
Party (PAN), faces a fierce opposition that will immediately test
his political mettle. Despite predictions that Mr. Calderon would
adopt a conciliatory approach, given the deep political rifts, early
indications are that he intends to set a firm tone by confronting
"Calderon must immediately show that he is in charge," says
Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director of the Mexico Project at the
Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"One of the mistakes of the Fox government was giving in and
Calderon's first test: his own swearing-in ceremony. On Tuesday,
a scuffle erupted in Congress between members of the left-leaning
Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and PAN legislators. PRD members,
claiming the election was fraudulent, have seized part of the stage
where Calderon is supposed to take the oath of office. With the
stand-off continuing only hours before Friday's ceremony, which
former President George H. W. Bush is expected to attend, it
remained unclear where the ceremony would take place.
Calderon's chief rival: AMLO
Calderon's chief political rival will be Mr. Lopez Obrador, the
former Mexico City mayor, known as AMLO, who lost the presidential
election and has since created a "parallel" government to challenge
Calderon. Lopez Obrador's popularity has dropped sharply since the
election. Many of his moderate supporters have left his side,
considering the move to create a "parallel" government over the top.
Still, Lopez Obrador can mobilize tens of thousands of
supporters, and his advisers say that negotiating with Calderon
would be futile. "There's no room for dialogue," says Jose Agustin
Ortiz, one of Lopez Obrador's closest advisers. "He has surrounded
himself with orthodox conservatives who will not budge from the same
neoliberal policies that keep most Mexicans poor."
Francisco Javier Aparicio, a political scientist at the Center
for Economics, Research, and Education in Mexico City, says,
"Calderon cannot underestimate Lopez Obrador, who will likely dog
the president throughout his six years in office. …