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Mexican Presidential Election Vote Count Gives Ruling Party Candidate Narrow Victory


After a detailed and meticulous vote count, Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, known as the IFE, on Thursday released a final report showing ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon with 35.88 percent of the vote and leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador with 35.31 percent. But this has not ended the wrangling over who won the most contested election in Mexican history. The losing candidate plans to file legal challenges and has called his supporters to a rally on Saturday.

By the narrowest of margins, just under .6 percent, Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party was shown to be the winner of Mexico's presidential election. Smiling, he came before reporters to provide his reaction.

He expressed his happiness with the outcome and his gratitude to the more than 40 million Mexicans who voted on Sunday, whether for him or for other candidates. He called for reconciliation, recognizing the need to reach out to the nearly two-thirds of the populace that did not vote for him.

In an earlier interview with the Associated Press, Calderon also suggested he would offer a cabinet post to Lopez Obrador, but it seems unlikely that the man who came in a close second in the official count would entertain such an offer. Instead, Lopez Obrador came before reporters to announce his rejection of the final vote count.

He said he would legally challenge the result in the Federal Electoral Tribunal, the body established by law for all such disputes. He also said he would rally his supporters Saturday in Mexico City's main plaza, called the Zocalo, and would put pressure on officials to examine evidence of what he called widespread irregularities in the voting process.

Lopez Obrador also criticized the electoral institute for what he called a hurried process of counting. He noted that officials had until Sunday, under the rules established by law to complete the process, which he said should have been done vote-by-vote.

IFE President Luis Carlos Ugalde, however, said that the law does not call for opening vote boxes and doing a complete recount unless there are indications of some problem. He noted that representatives from every political party and international observers were on hand for the count and that officials followed all procedures established by law.

The law also requires the recount to be complete without pause once it has begun, meaning that the people conducting the count were not even able to sleep until it was complete, something that would have made a prolonged effort lasting until Sunday almost humanly impossible.

Another question that emerged from the process concerned vote results Wednesday night that showed Lopez Obrador over one percentage point ahead, as opposed to the results Thursday morning showing him a half point behind. This was evidently the result of voting tallies from the northern Mexican states, where the ruling party has strong support, being counted last. Ruling party officials accused Lopez Obrador representatives of carrying out complaints and maneuvers in many northern states to delay the process there and give the impression that their candidate had an early lead.

The law establishes four days for legal challenges to be presented to the electoral tribunal, which has until the end of August to consider those challenges and make a decision as to their validity. The tribunal must deliver its final pronouncement on who won the election to the House of Deputies, in the Mexican Congress, by September 6.

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