Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Calderon nearing victory in Mexico

AFP , MEXICO CITY

Mexico's top electoral court has moved closer to declaring Felipe Calderon the victor of the July 2 presidential election even as leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continued to accuse his rival of fraud.

After assessing 375 complaints, the seven judges on the Federal Electoral Tribunal scraped 81,080 votes in favor of Calderon, and 76,897 for his rival, leaving the conservative's razor thin margin of victory largely intact.

Calderon's advantage over Lopez Obrador dropped from about 244,000 votes to 239,751, giving him a 0.57 margin of the 41.7 million votes.

The decision strengthens Calderon's claim to the top office, but the tribunal has yet to officially rule on the validity of the July 2 balloting and must announce a president-elect by Sept. 6.

After Monday's announcement, Lopez Obrador said that the tribunal had decided to "validate the [electoral] fraud and back the petty criminals who robbed us of the election ... and open the door to the usurper who wants to take the presidency by means of a coup."

Calderon said that while the tribunal "has yet to decide on the validity of the election, we're headed in the right direction."

Lopez Obrador, a popular former Mexico City mayor and standard bearer of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has repeatedly claimed that massive fraud marred the elections.

But Calderon, of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) insisted he had clearly won the vote in what authorities said were the closest elections in Mexico's history.

Electoral authorities had rejected Lopez Obrador's demand for a full recount of the votes, but conducted a new tally of 9 percent of the ballots earlier this month.

Despite Lopez Obrador's fiery rhetoric, he and his followers were expected to abide by the court's final verdict as failure to do so could lead them to lose their standing as political parties as well as public funding.

On Sept. 16, they plan to hold a "democratic national convention" to discuss strategy in downtown Mexico City.

The meeting will coincide with celebrations marking national independence day.

In an interview with France's Le Monde newspaper last week, Lopez Obrador said the convention could go so far as to proclaim him president.

"The assembly could also decide to name a legitimate president, a head of government or a coordinating committee for civil resistance," he said.

A spokesman for Lopez Obrador's Common Good coalition said the dispute with the ruling party was "a confrontation between two Mexicos."

"One of them is represented by the government, corporate world and the big media that make decisions every day. On the other side are the people, who vote once every six years. We have decided to respect their choice," he said.

The new president will start his six-year term on Dec. 1, taking over from President Vicente Fox.

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