Former President Vicente Fox called for respect for the will of the people and urged Mexicans to close ranks behind the winner of last weekend's presidential election.

"Mexico has a new president," Fox said, referring to Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Fox, a member of the National Action Party, or PAN, ended seven decades of PRI rule with his victory in the 2000 presidential election.

"Today, Mexico has taken the destiny of the country into its hands ... Today, the democrats are coming together and closing ranks behind the president-elect without wavering," Fox said in a post on his blog.

"The last three administrations (Ernesto Zedillo, Fox and Felipe Calderon) have ended frustrated because it was impossible to get approval for proposals submitted to Congress due to lack of consensus," the former president said.

Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has come in for criticism from members of his party for supporting Peña Nieto.

Earlier this week, Congressman Oscar Martin Arce Paniagua, a prominent PAN member, said he wanted Fox expelled from the party for supporting a candidate from another party in the presidential race.

Arce Paniagua, who chairs the leadership commission of the lower house of Congress, said Tuesday he planned to ask the PAN's National Executive Committee to take action against Fox.

Arce contends that PAN rules require members to support the party's candidates, creating "sufficient arguments for (Fox) to be expelled from the party or to lose his party rights."

Fox said in the run-up to election day that Peña Nieto had an insurmountable lead over PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota and it was necessary to make "votes count" to prevent leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from winning.

The former president, who does not hold any party posts, has belonged to the PAN since 1987 and won the presidency as the conservative party's standard-bearer in the 2000 elections, ending the PRI's hold on the presidency.

Fox's comments prompted PAN chairman Gustavo Madero to call on the former president to "not betray democracy."

"Fox Quesada should not forget that after decades of authoritarianism and economic and political backwardness in Mexico, he was the one who brought about change, so it appears unfitting, contradictory and absurd for him to ask for votes for a party opposed to what he advocated in 2000," Madero said.

President Felipe Calderon, for his part, said Wednesday that the PAN's defeat in the presidential election was a wake-up call for the conservative party.

"We have to rebuild it from the foundations to the dome, stone by stone," Calderon, who was the PAN's standard-bearer in the 2006 election, said in an interview with Milenio television.

The PAN's ideas, principles, history and commitment to democracy make it an essential player in Mexican political life, the president said.

"It changed history without firing a shot," Calderon said, referring to the PAN's defeat of the PRI 12 years ago.

"From the standpoint of commitment to democracy, it will not be (hard)," Calderon said in response to a question about whether it would be difficult to hand over power to Peña Nieto on Dec. 1.

Lopez Obrador, the candidate of a leftist coalition, has not recognized Peña Nieto's victory and is awaiting the final official results. EFE