Mexico recount takes Calderon closer to victory

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The Independent US

The Conservative candidate in Mexico's nail-biting general election, Felipe Calderon, appears certain to become the country's next president after an electoral court released details of an electoral recount that showed him to still have almost quarter-of-a-million more votes than his rival.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal also rejected claims that the vote on 2 July was plagued by widespread fraud.

While the court stopped short of declaring Mr Calderon the winner - something it must do by 6 September - its decision means there are now very few legal options available for his opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to pursue.

Already Mr Lopez Obrador, a populist left-wing candidate, has urged his supporters not to recognise any government led by Mr Calderon. "We will never again allow an illegal and illegitimate government to be installed in our country," he told thousands of his supporters, who have staked out positions in the main Zocalo plaza in the country's capital, Mexico City.

"[The court's decision] represents not only a disgrace in the history of our country but also a violation of the constitutional order and a true coup d'état."

The court's seven judges announced on Monday that they had rejected Mr Lopez Obrador's claims that last month's election had been plagued by massive fraud. Announcing the results of a partial recount, it said Mr Calderon had around 4,000 fewer votes - a reduction that still leaves him with a small, but clear margin of victory.

His 240,000-vote advantage amounts to around 0.58 per cent of votes cast.

The judges had scrapped the results from hundreds of polling stations where major irregularities were shown to have transpired. The result was to cut 81,080 votes for Mr Calderon and 76,897 for Mr Lopez Obrador. Supporters of Mr Lopez Obrador said the confirmation of some fraud demanded a full recount.

Michael Lettieri, an analyst with the Washington-based Council of Hemispheric Affairs who has just returned from Mexico, said: "I think it's a fait accompli and Calderon is going to be the president of Mexico. Whether that is a good thing for Mexico is another matter - I think it's going to be a tough six years [of his presidency]."

Among Mr Lopez Obrador's supporters there is already talk of establishing a parallel government that could collect taxes and offer services. How realistic such a proposition is - and whether it could ever amount to anything more than symbolism - is unclear.

Mr Calderon has already attacked such a proposal. "I won't let something that's been decided by all the citizens be undermined by a few in a violent way," he said.

The election between the left-wing Mr Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, and his conservative, US-educated rival, has exposed some of the faultlines of Mexican society.

Earlier this week Mr Calderon pledged to try to end the country's class divide by helping low-income groups. "I don't want several Mexicos. I don't want an impoverished Mexico. I want one single, strongly developed Mexico with solid economic growth," he told politicians.

Mr Lopez Obrador had called for a full recount, arguing that he was the true winner and that his victory was being denied by the fraud that he says transpired. He has now called for a giant rally in the Zocalo on 16 September - Mexico's Independence Day - when he will formally propose the establishment of an alternative government.