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by Adrian Reyes and Diego Cevallos

on Mexico's election crisis

(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- The battle continues between the two candidates who on July 2 vied for the Mexican presidency at the ballot box. Conservative Felipe Calderon announced Tuesday that he is beginning transition work with the current government, while leftist Andres Lopez Obrador presents more evidence of alleged election fraud.

The fate of the presidential election as of Tuesday lies in the hands of the Federal Elections Tribunal, which would have until Aug. 31 to resolve any disputes, and until Sept. 6 to decide the election and present a certificate of winner to the new president.

The ruling of the electoral tribunal cannot be appealed, and both Calderon, of the conservative and governing National Action Party (PAN) and Lopez Obrador, of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), have insisted they will heed the decision, although both also claim to have won the election.

While the legal challenge works its way through the system, the PRD and the minor Workers and Convergence Parties, which supported the PRD candidate, created an action committee to expose the alleged fraud. The coalition has presented to the elections tribunal challenges in 180 of the 300 electoral districts, and approximately 50,000 of the more than 134,000 ballot boxes used in the Sunday, July 2 voting across this country of more than 103 million people.

Tuesday, in his first press conference since the election -- which according to the official tally he won by just 0.58 percent of the vote -- Calderon urged his rival against "squandering your political capital" and not to discredit the the clean electoral process with negative protests.

Calderon said that elections "are won at the ballot box, not in the streets; elections are won with votes, not with demonstrations and insults," after Lopez Obrador announced a march of supporters for Wednesday in the 300 electoral districts across the country to meet in the capital on Sunday and demand a vote-by-vote recount.

Last week, PRD party president Leonel Cota asked the independent Federal Elections Institute (IFE) -- "for the good of the republic" -- to conduct the ballot-by-ballot recount, given that "it is already documented that the ballot boxes were stuffed or votes were cancelled in favour of the governing party's candidate." But Cota's demand went unheard.

Tuesday, Lopez Obrador stressed again that the Mexican electoral process "is tainted, there is no transparency."

Manuel Camacho Solis, a former peace negotiator with the indigenous guerrilla groups of the southern state of Chiapas and now coordinator of a citizens' network that backs Lopez Obrador, said in an IPS interview that it is necessary for both of the candidates to reach a political agreement in order to overcome the legal procedures that stand in the way of a recount.

It would benefit whomever is the next president to be able to take office without a shadow of suspicion hanging over him, he added.

Last Saturday, punctuated by encouraging shouts and surrounded by signs reading "no al fraude" ("No to fraud"), Lopez Obrador called for a demonstration in Mexico's main plaza, the Zocalo, on July 16, to be preceded by a march through the streets of the capital, emphasising that all the actions would be peaceful.

In an extensive speech, interrupted several times by chants of "no estas solo, no estas solo..." (You are not alone) Lopez Obrador reiterated that he would challenge the official recount results that declared Calderon the winner by a razor-thin margin, demanding a "clean," vote-by-vote recount.

While most local and international observers have called the elections fair and transparent, Lopez Obrador stated he would prove alleged irregularities to the judges, citing accusations such as manipulation of electronic data to lower his vote count.

Elections Tribunal President Eloy Fuentes Cerda told Mexico's Proceso magazine that "if the presidential election can be challenged, it can be declared invalid; as it stands, the political parties could in fact take it that far."

The election results, released Thursday following a recount by independent citizens overseen by observers and party delegates, showed Calderon with 15 million votes, narrowly beating Lopez Obrador, who captured 14.7 million votes. The figures were in line with an official preliminary count as well as exit polls.

Pre-election opinion polls forecast a neck-and-neck race between the frontrunner candidates, but gave Lopez Obrador a slight edge.

According to the PRD candidate, those "in power" want to steal his victory right from underneath him, because his platform is based on "spearheading true change" to make the country's economic structures more just.

Hugo Almada, of the non-governmental Civic Alliance, which acted as an electoral observer, told IPS that among the irregularities that most stand out is the operation of PREP, an electronic quick-count mechanism whose results favored the PAN candidate, he said.

The Federal Elections Institute rejected the criticisms and maintains that the PREP had been tested against Internet attacks.

Before Saturday's address, Lopez Obrador supporters presented transcripts and recordings of alleged election-day telephone conversations between the governors of several states and officials and friends of the Vicente Fox administration. The speakers in these documents and tapes reportedly promized to work together to consolidate Calderon's victory.

"Technical arguments and legal principles aside, we have to consider the country's peace and stability," the PRD candidate declared in response to the tribunal's opinion that, depending on the jurisdiction, not all ballot boxes could be opened for a recount.

"If we do a vote-by-vote recount, the results (that favored Calderon) could change," he said.

Last Thursday and Friday, observers from the European Union and local organizations vouched for the fairness of the elections and expressed their confidence that any challenge would be resolved through institutional channels.

Calderon has already received calls of congratulations from President Bush; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; and Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe.

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Albion Monitor   July 11, 2006   (

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