Supporters of a defeated Mexican leftist presidential candidate blocked major arteries in the heart of Mexico City and vowed to hold their ground until the electoral court orders a vote recount.
Hours earlier, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rallied more than one million supporters in the capital to denounce alleged election fraud they blamed for his narrow defeat four weeks ago.
Supporters of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rally in Mexico City, blocking major arteries in the heart of Mexico City and vowing to hold their ground until the electoral court orders a vote recount(AFP/Micphotopress/Fernando Castillo)
"I proposed to them that we stay here, in a permanent assembly, until the resolution of the (electoral) court," the former Mexico City mayor said at the rally in El Zocalo, the main square of the capital.
Government officials said some 1.2 million of his supporters filled the capital's streets chanting "no to fraud" and calling for a vote-by-vote recount of the 41.7 million ballots cast in the July 2 election.
Lopez Obrador asked his backers to set up 47 camping sites across the gridlocked city's main thoroughfares, promising they would be entertained with art and performances while peacefully lobbying for his cause.
"I told them I myself will be living in one of those sites while we are holding these meetings," he said.
"I know that what I propose is not easy, but it is essential for our cause."
Five hours after his speech, dozens of tents were already installed on two of the capital's main arteries as the sit-ins got under way ahead of the Monday morning rush hour.
Hundreds of protesters had begun to block the Paseo de la Reforma, the major road that bisects the capital north to south, which earlier in the day had been crammed with marchers.
Sunday's protest was the third demonstration in support of Lopez Obrador, who was bested by conservative Felipe Calderon in the polls by a bare 0.58 percentage point margin.
Lopez Obrador has formally filed complaints with the elections court citing evidence of cheating.
On July 18 his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) sent an 836-page document to the court claiming that the vote was invalid. They have also supplied videos and other alleged evidence of cheating to back their claim.
The electoral court, which has the power to call a partial or a full vote recount, must declare the official victor in the poll by September 6. The winner will assume the presidency on December 1.
Lopez Obrador maintains that if the court does not order a full recount it will be covering up "general election fraud" to Calderon's benefit.
"I am the president of Mexico ... In a recount I will win the election. Despite all the government fraud, we won on July 2," he said on the Univision television network.
For their part, Calderon's supporters in the National Action Party branded Lopez Obrador's statements as "schizophrenic", and insisted that Calderon has not deceived Mexico's people.
"It is not possible, it is not necessary to deceive people about anything using claims and suspicions. Personal beliefs must be put aside for a course through institutional channels established by law," Calderon said.
The rally Sunday was the largest for Lopez Obrador since the election. On July 16, 800,000 people across the country demonstrated to support his cause, and he has since called for a campaign of "peaceful resistance".
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse