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Mexico Remains Calm in Face of Election Impasse


Mexico remained calm the day after a presidential election that ended in a tight race too close to call and two candidates both claiming victory. Most Mexicans appear ready to wait a few days for official results, even if the candidates are not.

Newspaper headlines Monday announced the impasse, in what is described as the closest presidential election in Mexican history. Excelsior, one of the nation's oldest newspapers had one word in its large headline- "Quien?"-Spanish for "who?" El Universal proclaimed a "Vote-for-vote Fight," while Reforma's headline put forth the question: "And the winner is?"

The anxious situation is the result of a close vote count in Sunday's election between presidential candidates Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of the ruling National Action Party and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. Federal Electoral Institute experts said the vote count was so close that they could not determine a winner through a random sample quick count. They said the slight difference between the two candidates fell within the margin of error for the quick count and that a complete, official count would commence Wednesday.

The results posted by the electoral body since the close of polls Sunday show Calderon with a lead of about one percent, but any large influx of votes from an area where Lopez Obrador was popular could change the picture.

That leaves politicians, journalists and commentators in a state of high anxiety, but there is little of it apparent in the rest of Mexican society. The Mexican stock market rallied at its opening Monday and many people on the streets of Mexico City said they were content to wait until Wednesday, or even longer if necessary, for a final, official election result.

A woman named Giselle told VOA that she has total confidence in the electoral institute and the nation's electoral system, but not as much in the candidates. She said she fears that if Calderon is the winner, Lopez Obrador might not accept the results and create problems.

But Jorge, who says he voted for Lopez Obrador, dismissed that notion. He said the country would remain calm and that losing candidates would accept the final result, whatever it may be.

But concern over possible strife remains a hot topic among many political analysts, including George Grayson of the College of William and Mary, who recently published a book about Lopez Obrador. He says the fiery populist will call for widespread protests if does not win.

Whether that scenario plays out or not, there is no question that the election results reveal deep divisions in Mexican society. Whoever ends up being declared the winner in the presidential race will have won only slightly more than a third of the vote and, as Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento notes, the percentage of Mexicans who actually brought the new president to power will be even less - around 20 percent - when the abstention rate of 40 percent is taken into account.

The national Congress, likewise, will remain divided between the three parties, so that no major reform can pass without the formation of coalitions, something that current President Vicente Fox was unable to achieve during his six-year term. Sarmiento and other political analysts fear another six years could pass in a political impasse while much-needed reforms are left on the sidelines.