Originally created 07/08/06

Democracy under siege

Mexico's election result is good news for the United States - that is, if our neighbor can withstand the sternest challenge to its seven-decade-old democracy.

In a vote-count every bit as close as the United States' 2000 presidential election, a Harvard educated conservative, Felipe Calderon, has been declared the winner over Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-wing rabble-rouser with ties to anti-American socialist dictators such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Calderon, a free market economist and former energy minister who carried the banner of current President Vicente Fox's ruling party into the election, is expected to continue Fox's policies favored by Mexico's business community and the Bush administration.

Indeed, Mexican stocks surged on the news. But the truth is, Calderon is by no means out of the woods. Lopez Obrador is charging the election was rigged and is appealing the count to the federal electoral tribunal.

The tribunal, which has the final say on the election, doesn't have to rule on the complaint's validity until Aug. 31, and then has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner. In the meantime, Mexicans are bracing for a lot of Lopez Obrador-sponsored street rallies across the country to put political pressure on the tribunal to rule in his favor.

Lopez Obrador has had mixed results with these tactics in the past; in any event, the United States should get ready to deal with what may be months of Mexican strife and instability.

And that means reinforcing border security as it's never been reinforced before. The Bush administration must not let the distressing illegal immigration problem turn into a horrendous refugee problem.


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