Mexican politicians threw punches and chairs and fought for control of the congressional chambers before Felipe Calderon was to take the country's presidential oath of office.
Ruling party officials seized the speaker's platform where Calderon was supposed to appear, while leftist opponents blocked most of the chamber's doors.
The brawl was broadcast live on television. Calderon later took to the Speaker's platform and swore to uphold the constitution, under the protection of political allies.
Vicente Fox, Mexico's outgoing president, stood to the side of Calderon as he took the oath.
Fox presented Calderon with the presidential sash, the symbol of Mexico's presidency, amid howls of protest from the deputies in the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) of former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who claimed that Calderon's July 2 election win was fraudulent."I will always be ready to talk, but I will not wait for for talks before getting to work," Calderon said in his half-hour inaugural address.The opposition had waited in the chamber for two days to make their protest.
Deputies from the opposition jeered Calderon during his inauguration speechThe new president avoided some of the planned disturbances by taking over in a surprise ceremony at midnight in the presidential palace, hours before taking the constitutional oath in congress.Calderon said he was "aware of the complexity of the political moment that we live in and of our differences, but I am convinced that today we must put an end to our disagreements." "Mexico is in a time of political tension, I assume the responsibility for bringing them back together," he added.Lopez Obrador, a popular former mayor of Mexico City, has rejected Calderon as an "illegitimate president" responsible for a "coup d'etat" that was sending "Mexico's institutions to hell." On November 20, he declared himself the legitimate president of Mexico, held a swearing-in ceremony and even chose his own cabinet. But an opinion poll in September showed that 74 per cent of Mexicans were ready to accept Calderon as their new president, despite winning the election by less than one per cent. The ceremony was attended by 13 presidents and dozens of foreign guests, including former US president George Bush, father of the current US president, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.
Afterwards, Fox took an air force helicopter to his ranch in central Mexico where he plans to retire. The first opposition president in 71 years, Fox largely disappointed voters as failed to deliver on his promises of millions of new jobs and prosperity. Calderon is from the same National Action Party as Fox.