The seven-judge panel known as the TRIFE, charged with deciding the legitimacy of Mexico’s murky July 2 election and confirming the new president, is the nation’s court of last resort. What the judges decree is literally the last word, the end of the line; there is no appeal.
On September 5, the last day the Constitution mandated the TRIFE to rule on the most hotly contested balloting in Mexico’s checkered electoral history, the judges pronounced their verdict: Outgoing President Vicente Fox’s unconstitutional intervention in the electoral process on behalf of his handpicked successor, Felipe Calderón, had put the election “at risk.” Moreover, the financing of months of commercial spots that labeled leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) “a danger for Mexico” by transnational and national corporations was patently illegal and influenced voters.
The electoral tribunal also noted that Calderón, the PAN candidate who had been declared the winner by the much-criticized Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) by a razor-thin .55 percent of 41.6 million votes cast, had been awarded tens of thousands of votes that could not be substantiated. The TRIFE, in a partial recount of less than 10 percent of the 130,000 precincts held two weeks before the final decision, had annulled 237,000 votes, more than Calderón’s supposed margin of victory.
And the winner was? Calderón, a 44-year-old former energy minister and the scion of a founding PAN family. The party was birthed by Catholic bankers to beat back “Bolshevik” President Lazaro Cardenas during the Great Depression.
The illogic of the TRIFE verdict inflamed several thousand AMLO supporters gathered outside the tribunal’s bunker in southern Mexico City. “Fraude!” “Rateros!” (Fraud! Thieves!) they screamed, as the judges were escorted by military police to their expensive vehicles. López Obrador had long accused the seven judges of bowing to Fox government pressures in exchange for personal benefit–three of the TRIFE members are expected to be promoted to the Supreme Court in the coming Calderón administration.
López Obrador points to the tribunal as a glaring example of Mexico’s corrupted judiciary and calls for a “radical renovation” of the nation’s institutions.
For López Obrador, the confirmation of Calderón’s disputed victory signals the end of the line in a grueling, three-year struggle for the presidency during which Fox and his attorney general repeatedly tried to keep him off the ballot, even threatening to jail him on a trumped-up contempt-of-court citation–and the beginning of a new stage of resistance to what the leftist characterizes as the imposition of Calderón upon the nation.
That resistance was graphically illustrated on September 1, when 155 senators and Congressional representatives of AMLO’s three-party “Coalition for the Good of All” seized the podium of the Mexican Congress to prevent Fox from pronouncing his final State of the Union address. The takeover was seen as a dress rehearsal for Calderón’s December 1 inauguration as Mexico’s new president.