Mexican party demands vote-by-vote recount in tight presidential race
MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s main leftist party demanded a ballot-by-ballot recount Tuesday in the closest presidential race ever, claiming the voting was manipulated and renewing fears that its fiery candidate will launch violent street protests if he doesn’t get his way.The demand for a recount of all 41 million votes cast Sunday set up a possible marathon showdown that could go to Mexico’s electoral courts, stirring memories of the bitter Florida recount in the 2000 U.S. presidential race.Former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was trailing conservative Felipe Calderon by about 1 percent in preliminary tallies.”We are convinced of the triumph of our candidate,” said Lopez Obrador campaign manager Jesus Ortega. “We will demand a recount vote by vote, report by report, polling place by polling place.”But Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal said hours later that recounting every ballot was “physically impossible and also legally impossible.”At the close of voting Sunday, volunteers at tens of thousands of polling places counted the ballots in each box and attached a report, sending it to district headquarters.But about 3 million ballots were not part of that count because of problems, electoral officials said Tuesday. While Lopez Obrador had claimed those votes had gone “missing,” electoral authorities explained they had been set aside because they may have been marked wrong or were otherwise invalid. They said the ballots would still be examined – and possibly counted.But during a meeting with international reporters Tuesday afternoon, Abascal said those votes had “been well accounted for and don’t change the results of the quick count” showing that Calderon won.Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party acknowledged the questionable votes came from all over the country, not just areas where he is strong.Under election law, the Federal Electoral Institute will review the ballot-box totals and count the remaining 3 million votes beginning Wednesday to compile the official results. The president-elect will be named when that count is complete.The PRD demanded a full review because it claimed some voting places were counted twice while others weren’t counted at all.It was unclear whether electoral officials would – or even could – meet the party’s demand. Mexican law allows for a manual recount of votes only if there is evidence that sealed packages have been tampered with, or if the tallies are obviously miscalculated, wrongly filled out or illegible.Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the electoral institute, suggested earlier that there would not be a major recount.”In exceptional cases, you can open the electoral package but … the votes were already counted Sunday in the presence of the parties,” he said.If the vote recounts happen, they would be carried out in a single marathon, continuous session in each of the country’s 300 electoral districts that could last for days, said Karla Ramos, a spokesman for the electoral institute.Even so, financial markets and the peso rallied for a second day Tuesday because traders believed Calderon would reach the presidency. Calderon said Tuesday morning on Radio Formula that they were on the right track.”The people are right, the markets are right in treating this as fact,” Calderon said.He said he would negotiate with other parties to build an agenda for his six-year term, and he called on the country to put questions over the voting behind them.”Campaigns are made to bring out differences,” he said. “Now it’s time for agreements.”The PRD expressed fears that the third-place Institutional Revolutionary Party was in talks with Calderon and might recognize the election results in exchange for Cabinet posts.”They shouldn’t recognize something that isn’t transparent,” Cota said.On the streets of Mexico City, there were scattered demonstrations in favor of Lopez Obrador, but they were small and none became violent.Jorge Espindola, a 36-year-old Mexico City resident who decorated his 1980 Volkswagen bug with Lopez Obrador campaign signs, said supporters will remain calm.”There may be demonstrations … but there won’t be any violence,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in Mexico anymore.”Victor Gonzalez, the owner of a drugstore chain who mounted a quixotic unofficial write-in campaign – even though electoral law says such votes can’t be counted – filed a complaint against electoral authorities because they declared such ballots void.Analysts estimated that while no party would have a majority in Congress, National Action could increase greatly its representation as a result of Sunday’s election. Congressional opposition largely stymied President Vicente Fox’s programs.—On the Net:Federal Electoral Institute: http://www.ife.org.mx (has English language site.)
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