Mon, Aug 07, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Lopez Obrador hails protesters

DISPUTED RESULTS Mexico's leftist candidate has called for continued opposition after an election that squarely divided the nation along social and class lines

AP , MEXICO CITY

Mexico's leftist presidential candidate called for continued street protests in demand of a full recount in the country's disputed election -- despite the Federal Electoral Court's ruling that only a partial, ballot-by-ballot review was necessary.

The tribunal ruled on Saturday that granting Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's request for a full recount would violate electoral laws that prohibit recounts unless there is evidence of irregularities or fraud. Instead, the tribunal's seven judges voted in favor of a recount of 11,839 polling places -- about 9 percent of the more than 130,000 nationwide -- where they determined problems were evident.

The decision angered Lopez Obrador's millions of supporters. In a speech late on Saturday, he urged them to remain calm and fortify protest camps that have blocked Mexico City's main Reforma Avenue and Zocalo, snarling traffic for a week.

"We are going to continue our peaceful, civil resistance movement," he said, adding that the tribunal's judges were "legally weak."

He was expected to give a speech yesterday that would determine the movement's future.

The recount from polls will begin on Wednesday and will last no longer than five days. Electoral judges will oversee the process.

After the tribunal's ruling, dozens of Lopez Obrador supporters pushed against the court's front gate, chanting: "If there is no solution, there will be a revolution!"

One forced his way through, waving a Mexican flag and yelling "Bandits!"

In the Zocalo, chants of "vote-by-vote" drowned out the judges' statements as the session was broadcast live on a large TV screen.

"This is very bad. It's a total fraud," said Edelbira Cervantes, a 46-year-old government employee. "The people will solve this problem in their own way."

Ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon has an advantage of less than 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes, according to an official count from the July 2 election.

German Martinez, a Calderon legal aide, applauded the court's ruling, saying the judges "made the correct decision."

The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election.

The election has divided the nation along class and social lines. Lopez Obrador has promised to govern for the poor, while Calderon has the backing of the nation's growing middle classes and ruling elite.

Since the election, Lopez Obrador has accused President Vicente Fox of influencing the election. He has called the Mexican leader a "traitor to democracy" and electoral officials "criminals," and even accused some of his own party officials of taking bribes to plot against him.

In the tribunal's session on Saturday, justice Leonel Castillo said that Mexico's political parties could raise concerns when the results were first counted at polling places on election day and again when the tally sheets were added up.

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