Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Mexican protesters demand recount of votes

HARSH WORDS Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador branded conservative rival Felipe Calderon and his followers as `fascists' in a television interview

AFP , MEXICO CITY

Supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held protests nationwide on Wednesday to demand a vote-by-vote recount of the July 2 presidential election.

A popular former Mexico City mayor, Lopez Obrador trailed conservative Felipe Calderon by half a percentage point in the official count.

Both men have claimed victory, and late on Sunday Lopez Obrador filed an official challenge to the election.

The nationwide marches are expected to culminate in a giant protest in the downtown Mexico City Zocalo [main square] on Sunday, similar to one that brought together 200,000 protesters against the election results on July 9.

The goal is to pressure the Electoral Tribunal, the final arbiter of electoral matters, to carry out a full recount of the 41.7 million ballots cast.

Across Mexico City, one of the most populous cities in the world, groups of between 50 and 100 protesters headed towards the Zocalo, planning to remain there until the Sunday rally.

Despite what appeared to be little participation, the marchers did not seem demoralized.

"There will be a lot more on Sunday, our morale has not dropped," said Flavio Ramirez, a PRD official.

"Out with the fascist right" read one of the banners the protesters carried.

Lopez Obrador claims to have videos showing irregularities during the vote, and late on Tuesday vowed to take the election dispute "as far as the people want it to go."

In a television interview on Tuesday he called Calderon and his followers "fascists" for saying that the former mayor and his followers represented a danger to Mexico.

"That's fascism ... we won't leave the country in the hands of these people," he told the Televisa channel.

Lopez Obrador also showed two videos taken at polling stations he said "show the need to reopen the electoral packets" and conduct a recount.

But he backed off earlier claims that the videos were "irrefutable proof" of fraud.

Lawyers for the leftist candidate filed an official challenge to the election late on Sunday after losing to Calderon by some 244,000 votes.

Mexico's electoral tribunal took up the case on Monday after Lopez Obrador's organization delivered 900 pages documenting alleged vote fraud.

The tribunal has until Sept. 6 to issue a ruling which cannot be appealed.

The winner is to take office on Dec. 1 for a six-year term to replace President Vicente Fox.

The planned protests are reminiscent of the wave of demonstrations that followed the defeat of leftist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in 1988.

Cardenas was running ahead in the count when the computerized vote counting system mysteriously crashed.

When it was restored, Carlos Salinas de Gortari from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was ahead in the count and eventually declared the winner.

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