Supporters of Mexico’s leftist candidate promise lawbreaking to protest alleged fraud
MEXICO CITY – An international nonprofit group that observed Mexico’s disputed presidential election said Thursday it had witnessed evidence of fraud and urged Mexican officials to grant a request from the race’s apparent second-place finisher to conduct a full vote recount.The San Francisco-based Global Exchange group watched voting at 60 of the country’s 130,000 polling places and found evidence of fraud or irregularities at each of them, Global Exchange Director Ted Lewis told a news conference.The alleged evidence includes polling places with more ballots cast than registered voters, intimidation, vote-buying, the unauthorized intervention of political leaders and a lack of knowledge among volunteer election workers.”Yes, there was fraud, from what we could see, in small things,” Lewis said. “We can’t say that this would affect the final result. … We aren’t applying this to the whole country, nor are we generalizing.”Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has insisted on a full recount of all 41 million ballots cast in the July 2 election, saying there was rampant fraud and that the recount would swing the election his way.His rival, conservative ruling-party candidate Felipe Calderon, has an advantage of less than 1 percent, or more than 240,000 votes, according to initial election results released by the autonomous Federal Electoral Institute days after the balloting.Calderon said the election was clean and has called on Lopez Obrador to accept the final decision of the Federal Electoral Court, which has until Sept. 6 to announce a president-elect or annul the election.Meanwhile, thousands of Lopez Obrador followers have camped out along Mexico’s main Reforma avenue and in the central plaza, the zocalo, worsening the city’s already infamous traffic jams and costing businesses millions of dollars in daily losses.On Wednesday, Lopez Obrador supporters said they would become openly defiant of Mexican law if a full vote recount isn’t ordered. Lopez Obrador aide Gerardo Fernandez said the so-called campaign of disobedience will begin after a mass meeting on Sept. 16 and will “imply a position of rebellion against authorities.” He said, however, the movement will not include an “armed insurgency.”The Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, has been held up internationally as a model of a fair and objective organization, and has advised emerging democracies including Iraq and Haiti. But some fear that its reputation has been damaged by the complaints of fraud.”One way for the Federal Electoral Institute to recover its reputation as a fair and open institution is to attend to the petition from a growing number of Mexicans to conduct a recount of the vote,” Lewis said.It is the Federal Electoral Tribunal, however, not the Federal Electoral Institute, that has the authority to order a recount. The court already has rejected the request, saying the law did not allow it. Instead, the court ordered a recount of 9 percent, or a little more than 11,000 of the polling places where it said irregularities were evident. The count has been completed, but officials have not released the results publicly.Lewis said Global Exchange also recommended that Mexico reform its election laws to allow a second round of voting in extremely tight races, which he said “would guarantee the legitimacy of the winner in the elections,” as well as reducing the length and cost of campaigns.Also Thursday, President Vicente Fox’s spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said Fox planned to deliver his annual state-of-the-nation address to Congress as usual on Sept. 1, despite threats by Lopez Obrador supporters, who said they would ensure that the event “would be no picnic” for the president.—On the Net:Global Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.orgIFE (has English link): http://www.ife.org.mx
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