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Leftist Lopez Obrador Loses Local Governor...s Race in His Home State

By James C. Mckinley Jr.
THE NEW YORK TIMES


MEXICO CITY

The leader of the Mexican left, who has refused to accept his defeat in the presidential election, took a beating over the weekend in a governor’s race widely viewed as a referendum on his charisma and power as a populist.

Though aides to the leftist leader, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, dismissed the loss as a minor setback, his detractors noted that it was the latest in a string of signs that he is losing public support, even in his home state, Tabasco.

Lopez Obrador has charged that the July 2 presidential election was fraudulent and declared himself “the legitimate president,” after a show-of-hands vote among his supporters at a mass rally last month. The gathering came after his supporters had blockaded major avenues in the capital for six weeks to demand a recount.

The courts awarded a narrow victory to Felipe Calderon, a conservative from President Vicente Fox’s party, the National Action Party. Leftists loyal to Lopez Obrador have vowed to keep Calderon from taking office on Dec. 1, and the leftist leader has promised to set up a parallel government.

But Sunday’s election for governor in Tabasco, in the south, suggested that Lopez Obrador’s ability to sway voters has waned since the presidential race. Returning to his home state, Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, campaigned hard for weeks on behalf of his party’s candidate, Cesar Raul Ojeda. He often upstaged the candidate during the final days of the campaign.

Many Mexicans saw the race as a test of Lopez Obrador’s strength. He had, after all, won the state convincingly in the presidential race. But with 96 percent of the precincts counted on Monday, the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, Andres Rafael Granier, was winning by 10 points.

The election was ugly, and leaders of Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party said they would challenge the results. Supporters of the rival candidates engaged in street battles and fired guns at the houses of influential politicians as a scare tactic. The voting was also plagued by allegations of vote buying.

Some political analysts said the results showed that the public was fed up with Lopez Obrador’s stubborn reluctance to concede defeat and his reliance on street protests.

“It seems to me to be a catastrophe for him,” said Raymundo Riva Palacio, a political columnist for the newspaper El Universal. “On his own turf, the political costs of the protests and the taking of streets has taken its toll in an election.”

Oscar Luis Rodr guez, a longtime member of Lopez Obrador’s party in Tabasco, put it more bluntly. “Andres Manuel has lost credibility,” he told the daily newspaper El Sol. “He has lost respect. Here Andres Manuel was born, and here he has been buried.”

Cesar Yanez, a spokesman for Lopez Obrador, said such political obituaries were premature. Lopez Obrador still plans to hold a faux inauguration on Nov. 21 and then tour the country as an alternative president, he said.