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Mexican Officials and Voters Ready for Sunday's Presidential Election


In Mexico the noise of the campaigns is now over and voters are preparing to make their final choices for president as well as regional offices on Sunday. Election officials expect to announce preliminary results a few hours after polls close, but the presidential race is so close it could take longer.

Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, known by its Spanish initials as IFE, has polling stations and personnel in place all across the country. IFE President Luis Carlos Ugalde says all is in place for the voters.

He says the time of the electors and voters is now here. He says IFE is well prepared for the voting and that a quick count should reveal the winning presidential candidate before midnight local time Sunday.

However, IFE has plans in place to delay any announcement of results in the case of very close results. There is even one plan to delay any official pronouncement of a winner until September, something that would leave Mexico in a state of anxiety and uncertainty that could harm the economy and social stability.

But government officials say they are not worried. Ruben Aguilar, the spokesman for President Vicente Fox, says order will prevail.

He says all is set for the election and that the government does not expect trouble of any sort either in the process or following the announcement of results.

But some political analysts remain concerned. The last published public opinion polls show a presidential election race in a statistical dead heat between the ruling National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderon and the candidate of the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Some political analysts note that Lopez Obrador has made statements that could lay the groundwork for complaints if the final results are not in his favor. He has promised to abide by the results, but it is feared that many of his supporters could take to the streets if Calderon is declared the victor.

Forty-three-year-old Felipe Calderon served in the Fox cabinet as Energy Minister, but then defied the president by running in his party's primary and defeating former Interior Minister Santiago Creel, who was said to have the backing of President Fox. Calderon thus has the youthful rebel image that separates him from some of the failures of the Fox government, while at the same time benefiting from its successes. He has promised to carry out broad economic and political reforms if elected.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a former mayor of Mexico City who is described by most analysts as a populist. The 52-year-old candidate has based his campaign on promises to alleviate poverty. During his time as mayor he was known for grand public works projects and a welfare program for the elderly.

For most of the past year polls showed Lopez Obrador as the clear frontrunner, but he stumbled badly a few months ago when he used crude language to criticize President Fox, something many Mexicans found offensive. He fell further in the polls after declining to participate in a debate with Calderon and other candidates. He did participate in a debate held earlier this month, however, and since then his standing in the polls has risen.