Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans turned out in Mexico City
on Sunday to support Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [EPA]

The losing candidate in Mexico's closest presidential election has rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters in Mexico City's main square, aiming to re-ignite a flagging movement that could split the left.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who still insists he won the election a year ago, threatened to rouse the masses if the government tried to privatise the country's state-owned oil industry.

 

He called for "zero negotiation" with Felipe Calderon, the man who beat him at the polls.

 

"Zero negotiation. I repeat, zero negotiation" with the government, he told the rally on Sunday, which was somewhat smaller than the ones he called last year after narrowly losing the July 2, 2006 elections, a defeat he blamed on fraud.

 

Lopez Obrador has refused to recognise Calderon - who won the five-way 2006 election by a margin of less than 1 per cent - and has mounted his own parallel "government", with himself as "legitimate president".

 

Unspecified 'measures'

 

He warned of unspecified consequences if Calderon tried to open the oil industry – which suffers from falling production and a lack of investment – to private or foreign interests.

 

"As soon as such an initiative is sent, I will call you all together for an emergency meeting ... to take such measures as are necessary," he told the cheering crowd, which greeted him with shouts of "President! President!"

 

Calderon has called for allowing outsiders to enter joint ventures and investments with the Pemex oil monopoly, but has pledged not to privatise it.

 

Even Lopez Obrador's leadership of
Mexico's left is not assured [EPA]
Since taking office in December, Calderon has earned 65 per cent approval ratings with a war on drug trafficking that has sent thousands of soldiers and federal police to combat well-armed cartels.

 

His movement, which draws support from about one-quarter of the population, is keeping alive an undercurrent of scepticism and discontent, though it rarely makes headlines anymore.

 

"The movement is not dead. What's happening is that the media want to kill it," said Jaime Taylor, 55, a small-business owner who attended the rally.

 

"We only trust the legitimate government ... and that is Lopez Obrador."

 

But even his leadership of Mexico's left is not assured.

 

Marcelo Ebrard, now mayor of Mexico City, is more centrist and considered by many to have a better chance at winning the 2012 presidential elections than Lopez Obrador, who is saddled with an image as a sore loser.

 

Ebrard was at Sunday's rally and hugged Lopez Obrador, but did not address the crowd.

 

Even some Lopez Obrador supporters hope the charismatic former candidate will not ruin Ebrard's chances by trying to run again in 2012.

Source: Agencies