MEXICO CITY -- Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday that he is refusing to recognize the results of Mexico's presidential election, raising the question of whether he will launch street protests like those he used to paralyze central Mexico City after losing the 2006 vote.
Lopez Obrador says a federal electoral tribunal made an illegitimate ruling Thursday evening that rejected the leftist's allegations of vote-buying and other campaign violations in favor of Enrique Pena Nieto, the candidate of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Lopez Obrador says he is calling a peaceful protest for Sept. 9.
"I am telling the people of Mexico that I cannot accept the judgment of the electoral tribunal that declared the presidential election valid," Lopez Obrador told a news conference. "The elections were not clean, free and genuine. As a result, I will not recognize an illegitimate power that's emerged as a result of vote-buying and other grave violations of the constitution and the law."
It was not immediately clear how many people he will call into the streets and what effect the protest will have. He says he wants the protest to respect the law, and he did not indicate that there would be a repeat of the blockades he launched in 2006.
Lopez Obrador was able to call hundreds of thousands of people into the streets for campaign rallies, and he retains a large and fervent base of support in Mexico City. But Pena Nieto's margin of more than 3 million votes was far wider than the few hundred thousand votes that cost Lopez Obrador the last presidential vote, and many opponents' outrage at Pena Nieto's win appears to have largely faded since the July 1 vote.
Lopez Obrador alleged Pena Nieto engaged in widespread vote-buying and campaign spending excesses but Mexico's highest election court voted unanimously Thursday to legally dismiss his challenges. The unanimous ruling by the seven-member Federal Electoral Tribunal paves the way for the old ruling party known as the PRI to return to power after losing the presidency for the first time in 71 years in 2000 elections.
The PRI said in a statement Friday morning that the ruling "has ended the contentious and combative phase of the federal electoral process and has fully demonstrated the legitimacy of Enrique Pena Nieto's victory at the ballot box."
Before the vote in their nighttime session, all of the justices said they did not think supporters of Lopez Obrador had submitted convincing evidence of the alleged abuses.
"Mexico has a president elected by the people, in the person of Enrique Pena Nieto," said Justice Salvador Nava.
The justices said some of the evidence submitted was hearsay, or unclear. For example, they said the evidence included gifts allegedly given out by the PRI, without proof that was where they came from or that the gifts had been given to influence votes.
Ricardo Monreal, Lopez Obrador's campaign manager, said the justices "are acting like a gang of ruffians."
Monreal complained that the justice wanted his coalition "to supply not just the evidence, but the victims and criminals" as well.
The accusations centered on hundreds and possibly thousands of pre-paid gift cards that shoppers at a Mexican grocery store chain said they were given by Pena Nieto's party before the election.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.