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Mexico's Ruling-Party Candidate Ahead in Vote Count

After a detailed vote count, Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, known as the IFE, is expected to release shortly a final report showing ruling-party presidential candidate Felipe Calderon ahead of leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than one percent. This has not ended the wrangling over who won the most contested election in Mexican history.

After all but a few of the votes had been counted and the final nationwide tally showed him around half a percentage point ahead, Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party came before cheering supporters.

He said that after December 1, Mexico's inauguration day, all Mexicans will be his boss. 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 interview with the Associated Press, Calderon also suggested he would offer a cabinet post to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but it seems unlikely that the man who came in a close second in the official count would accept such an offer. Instead, Lopez Obrador told reporters he rejects the final vote count.

Mr. Obrador 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 that showed Lopez Obrador more than one percentage point ahead, as opposed to the final results 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.