Hundreds of thousands of supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador elected him the leader of a parallel government that plans to spend the next six years trying to keep President-elect Felipe Calderon from governing.
The "vote" — a show of hands in the packed Zocalo plaza — was the latest development in Mexico's months-long electoral dispute. Lopez Obrador claims fraud and illegally government spending was responsible for Calderon's slim victory, and has vowed to be the new leader's biggest opponent.
The massive meeting in Mexico's sprawling Zocalo plaza came hours after President Vicente Fox celebrated Independence Day with a giant military parade. The protesters previously had occupied the Zocalo and Mexico City's elegant Reforma Avenue for nearly seven weeks to demand that Lopez Obrador be awarded the presidency, but they cleared out for the parade and don't plan to return.
On Saturday, they voted to swear Lopez Obrador in to his new post as "legitimate president" on Nov. 20. Calderon will be inaugurated on Dec. 1.
The decisions were greeted by thundering applause, demonstrating the following Lopez Obrador still has more than two months after the disputed July 2 vote.
"This convention is the most palpable proof of how the people of Mexico feel," said Antonio Romano Hernandez, a 56-year-old baker from Mexico City.
Earlier Saturday, during the parade, small groups of Lopez Obrador supporters pushed up against metal barricades separating the crowds from the parade holding signs reading "Fox, crook" and "Vote by vote," a reference to their call for a full recount in the election that Lopez Obrador lost by a margin of less than 0.6 percent.
Others cheered the president and Calderon of Fox's conservative National Action Party. A military band played loudly over the conflicting protests and members of the president's security guard stood by to prevent violence. No major incidents were reported.
On Friday night, when Mexico kicked off Independence holiday celebrations, Fox agreed to stay away from the square, issuing the traditional "Viva Mexico!" cry from a city hundreds of miles away to avoid possible clashes with Lopez Obrador supporters.