A senator from Mexican President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, says the outgoing head of state is short-tempered and prefers to be surrounded by sycophants.

In an open letter to the president published Wednesday in Reforma newspaper, Sen. Javier Corral seeks to saddle Calderon with much of the blame for the conservative PAN's third-place finish in the July 1 presidential election.

As Mexican presidents are limited to a single six-year term, the PAN's standard-bearer in the contest was former Education Secretary Josefina Vazquez Mota.

The winner was Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, whose 71-year-long grip on power was broken by the PAN's victory in the 2000 election.

Corral implied he decided to write the open letter after learning that Calderon referred to him as a coward for not showing up at a PAN gathering last month.

"You called me a coward for not having gone ... You're mistaken, cowardice is not one of the many faults I have," the senator said in his missive, adding that he skipped Calderon's meeting with PAN lawmakers to avoid the president's "interminable expositions."

"You deliver monologues ... about the marvels of your administration and how well you have done everything, where you blame the (Vazquez Mota) campaign and the party for the recent defeat," Corral wrote.

Peña Nieto's ultimately successful presidential bid "was crafted years ago by Televisa," the senator said, referring to Mexico's dominant television network.

Corral, a strong critic of the country's television duopoly, faulted Calderon for "weakness" toward Televisa going back to when the incumbent president was campaigning in 2006.

A return to power by the PRI "is a threat that all of us perceived," the senator told Calderon. "You know very well that that moment will crystallize your failure more than any critique or analysis."

He asked Calderon to refrain from interfering in the PAN's efforts to set a new course in the wake of the election defeat.

Calderon, who took office after the closest presidential election in Mexican history, is best known internationally for his decision to militarize the struggle against the drug trade.

That strategy - like the roughly 60,000 deaths that have accompanied it - is deeply unpopular with some sectors, but many political analysts say the PAN's failure to keep its promises of strong economic growth weighed more heavily with voters. EFE