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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mexico leftist sees rival becoming president-elect

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's leftist opposition leader acknowledges a court will soon declare his conservative rival Felipe Calderon president-elect even though he believes the July 2 election was fraudulent, an aide said on Thursday.

Mexico's top electoral tribunal this week rejected most of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's claims of vote fraud, almost guaranteeing Calderon the presidency.

Manuel Camacho Solis, one of Lopez Obrador's top advisors, said the leftist believed the court would rule in the next few days that the election was clean and formally announcing Calderon as the winner.

"Yes, that's the evaluation. That's the way it will be," he told Reuters.

Calderon, a Harvard-educated former energy minister, won the election by less than one percentage point. The court must announce a president-elect before a September 6 deadline.

Lopez Obrador has paralyzed central Mexico City with protests and sit-ins to complain about what he says was fraud at the presidential vote.

He has vowed to continue to hound Calderon and President Vicente Fox with street protests and political pressure, but says he will not resort to violence.

"He will never recognize (Calderon) but neither is he going to begin a violent people's movement," said Camacho Solis.

Leftist deputies will try to prevent Fox from making his final state of the nation address in Congress on Friday.

Protesters will also probably disrupt Fox's independence day speech in the Zocalo square on September 15 and Calderon's inauguration on December 1, the aide said.

The election was Mexico's most bitter in decades and split the country only six years after Fox became a hero for ending seven decades of single-party rule.

Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer in the swampy state of Tabasco, says Fox illegally used government resources to back Calderon in the election campaign.

"Without all the support of the government he would never have won the election. There was a state strategy to prevent him becoming president," Camacho Solis said.

The left, the second force in Congress, is now debating its future.

"There are two ways. One is hardening the opposition and the other is creating initiatives for political change that will decrease the tension," Camacho Solis said.

Lopez Obrador followers will hold a convention in mid-September and may set up an "alternative government" headed by the leftist and strengthen links between the three parties that support him, the aide said.
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