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Court Adds 5th Candidate to Mexico's Presidential Ballot

FILE - This June 7, 2015 file photo shows Jaime Rodriguez, known as "El Bronco," then an independent candidate for governor, on his horse, in Villa de Garcia, Mexico. Mexico's top electoral court has ordered on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, that Rodriguez be added to the ballot for the July 1, 2018, presidential election.

Mexico's top electoral court ordered Tuesday that a fifth candidate be added to the ballot for the July 1 presidential election.

Jaime "El Bronco" Rodriguez, an independent candidate often seen astride a horse in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, was kept off the ballot last month by the electoral institute for not collecting enough legitimate signatures. He had argued that the institute did not allow him to timely review and challenge all of the rejected names.

But the court ruled early Tuesday in a 4-3 vote that Rodriguez was not given a sufficient opportunity to contest signatures. It said he should be added immediately since the official campaign period began nearly two weeks ago.

Independent candidates were required to gather signatures from 866,000 people, or 1 percent of the electorate on a national level, from 17 of Mexico's 31 states, plus the capital district.

In a statement Tuesday, the court said Rodriguez had successfully challenged nearly 63,000 signatures that had been rejected by the electoral institute and was only about 16,000 names short, which could be found upon further review.

Rodriguez is the second independent candidate in the race, joining Margarita Zavala, a lawyer and former lawmaker and first lady. He won the governorship of Nuevo Leon as an independent in 2015.

Early Tuesday, he tweeted "God is great, thank you."

Zavala, in an interview with Radio Formula, said she disagreed with the court's decision and worried that applying the rules differently to some candidates would generate uncertainty in the electoral process. She has split from the National Action Party, which carried her husband Felipe Calderon to the presidency in 2006, to forge her own independent candidacy.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Morena party remains the election front-runner.

It is not clear which candidate is most likely to lose votes to Rodriguez.