Mexican electoral authorities said on Wednesday they are recounting more than half the ballot boxes used in the weekend’s presidential election after finding inconsistencies in the vote tallies.
Of the 143,000 ballot boxes used during Sunday’s vote, 78,012 will be opened and the votes recounted, Mexican Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) executive secretary Edmundo Jacobo said.
Electoral officials expect the recount plus the final, official overall count on the presidential vote to be ready by Sunday, IFE spokesperson Ana Fuentes said.
Mexico’s electoral law states that votes should be recounted if there are inconsistencies in the final tally reports, if there is a difference of 1 percentage point or less between the first and second place finishers or if all the votes in a ballot box are in favor of the same candidate.
With 99 percent of the vote tallied in the preliminary count, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto led with 38 percent of the vote and Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had 32 percent.
Authorities will also recount 61 percent of the ballot boxes in the vote for Senate seats and 60 percent in the vote for the lower house of Congress, Jacobo said.
The presidential front-runner expressed confidence on Wednesday about the recount.
“I trust that the final tally will be consistent with the preliminary count,” Pena Nieto said.
Lopez Obrador has refused to accept the preliminary vote tallies, saying the election campaign was marred by overspending, vote-buying and favorable treatment of Pena Nieto by Mexico’s semi-monopolized television industry.
The leftist candidate said on Tuesday that his team had detected irregularities at 113,855 polling places, and called for a total recount.
Feeding suspicion of large-scale vote-buying were scenes of thousands of people rushing to grocery stores this week to redeem pre-paid gift cards they said the PRI had given them ahead of the election. Several told reporters they had been told to turn in a photocopy of their voter ID card in order to get the gift cards.
Under Mexican election law, giving voters gifts is not a crime unless the gift is conditioned on a certain vote or is meant to influence a vote. However, the cost of such gifts must be reported, and cannot exceed campaign spending limits. Violations are usually punished with fines, but generally not considered grounds for annulling an election.
The PRI accused rivals in many parts of the country of handing out groceries or using government programs to influence voters.
The governing National Action Party accused Pena Nieto’s campaign of acquiring about 9,500 prepaid gift cards worth nearly US$5.2 million to give away for votes. Authorities said a business had bought that number of cards, but that they had found no direct evidence of vote-buying. That investigation continues.
On Tuesday, IFE member Alfredo Figueroa said authorities were investigating complaints about the gift cards. Institute members have said they were aware of attempts to engage in vote buying.