Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Lopez Obrador and Calderon take poll battle to tribunal

AP , MEXICO CITY

The battle for Mexico's presidency has turned from a nasty campaign of mudslinging into a tense tug of war in court.

Apparent winner Felipe Calderon said late on Monday his conservative party had evidence showing that last week's election was clean and discrediting legal challenges by leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In a statement, Calderon said he was considering giving the evidence to the Federal Electoral Tribunal, though he did not say what the evidence was.

Earlier, apparent runner-up Lopez Obrador sent the tribunal boxes of documents, videotapes and photos he says show the vote was fixed.

The tribunal has until Sept. 6 to investigate the allegations and declare a winner.

Among the videotapes that were presented by Lopez Obrador was a film he gave reporters in which a man is seen stuffing several ballots into a ballot box marked for congressional races. The video was later aired on Mexican television.

The Federal Electoral Institute released a statement late on Monday, saying the man on film was putting some ballots that had been deposited in the wrong ballot box into the correct box.

"The images in this video, related with supposed irregularities, have been misinterpreted," the institute said.

The fight is also being taken to the international stage.

Calderon has received congratulatory calls from US President George W. Bush, as well as from the governments of Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom and Colombia.

Aides of Lopez Obrador said on Monday they ask foreign embassies not to congratulate any candidate until the courts officially declare a winner.

Under Mexican law, Calderon won't have won until the tribunal certifies the count. And that's not a sure thing: the widely respected tribunal has overturned two gubernatorial races in recent years, both for meddling by the ruling party.

A spokesman for President Vicente Fox said on Monday that the head of state won't talk to either of the candidates until the court has made a ruling.

Federal officials announced last week that Calderon had won by just 244,000 votes, or a margin of 0.6 percent.

Lopez Obrador wants officials to recount all the 41 million ballots, an action the tribunal has the power to take if it thinks there is enough evidence.

The leftist claims there were nationwide violations before the election, including campaign overspending, government support for Calderon, and unfair intervention on his behalf by business and church groups.

He also claims that at specific polling places, there are ballots that are either unaccounted for, or that there were more votes than ballots or registered voters.

Lopez Obrador is also taking his campaign to the streets.

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