Mexico’s ruling party presidential candidate holds lead after partial recount
MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s ruling party candidate held onto his narrow lead in the disputed presidential election after a partial recount of votes, the top electoral court said Monday in a strong indication that conservative Felipe Calderon will be declared the winner.But the judges held off on naming the president-elect and still have the option to annul the election.Calderon’s leftist challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reacted to the court’s announcement in outrage, calling on supporters never to accept Calderon as president and asking them to decide if he should form a parallel government or carry on a nationwide campaign of protests.”We will never allow an illegal and illegitimate government is installed in our country,” he told thousands gathered in Mexico City’s central plaza, calling acceptance of Calderon tantamount to a coup d’etat.Calderon said he was satisfied with tribunal’s decision because it supported the votes of millions of Mexicans.The Federal Electoral Tribunal announced the number of votes it had annulled as the result of 375 challenges to the July 2 election, reducing Calderon’s 240,000-vote lead over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by just over 4,000 votes.However, the judges held off on announcing a final vote tally or ruling on Lopez Obrador’s allegation that the ruling party used illegal tactics during the campaign, both of which must be decided by Sept. 6. If they agree the ruling party broke the law, they could annul the election, though that now seems unlikely.Lopez Obrador had demanded a full recount of all 41 million votes, claiming that would swing the lead in his favor. Instead, the top electoral court ordered a recount of the 9 percent of all the polling places where they believed there was evidence of irregularities.Lopez Obrador’s party has argued the campaign was dirty and that fraud was responsible for Calderon’s slight lead – which amounted to 0.6 percent of the ballots cast. He and his supporters have also questioned the Federal Electoral Tribunal’s ability to resolve the dispute fairly. After the results of the partial recount, Lopez Obrador said “the judges made a political decision, not a judicial one.””Today the Electoral Tribunal decided to validate the fraud against the will of the citizens expressed at the ballot boxes,” he said.”With this decision, constitutional order is broken and the path is opened to a usurper.”Lopez Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City mayor to run for president, said he would ask supporters to decide on a future course of action at a massive Sept. 16 meeting he has called for in the capital’s Zocalo plaza – the symbolic heart of the country that has been occupied by his followers since shortly after the election.Several of the electoral court judges defended their work in an open session Monday as dozens of protesters pressed against the courthouse gates, demanding that the election be given to Lopez Obrador.”Tolerance, the ability to listen, has prevailed over everything else,” chief justice Leonel Castillo said.The court said all of the challenges are now resolved.Lopez Obrador has led street demonstrations and set up protest camps that have snarled traffic. He plans to ask supporters during the meeting Sept. 16 – Mexico’s Independence Day – whether he should declare himself the “alternative” president-elect.President Vicente Fox leaves office Dec. 1, like all Mexican presidents limited to a single, six-year term.—Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.
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