From the New York Times, links and annotation added:
MEXICO CITY, July 6 — Felipe Calderón, a conservative former energy minister, won a narrow victory in the race for president today after election officials finished their official tally, but his leftist rival vowed to go court and demand a recount.
Although a special elections tribunal still must ratify the results, the Federal Electoral Institute said its official count of tally sheets from polling stations, carried out over two days, gave Mr. Calderón a 243,000-vote lead over Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City who has championed the cause of the country’s poor.
A smiling Mr. Calderón told reporters: “It’s been a process that has been carried out sticking scrupulously to the law, and how great that this is not just a democratic country, but one with the rule of law, and, most of all, certainty.
But Mr. López Obrador said the election had been riddled with irregularities and the official count could not be trusted. He said he would challenge the result in court and ask for the ballot boxes to be opened and the votes recounted. He also called on his supporters to rally in the historic central square of the capital on Saturday in a show of strength.
“We cannot accept these results,” Mr. López Obrador, 52, declared. He added: “We are going to ask for clarity. We are going to ask for a vote count, polling place by polling place.”
Mr. López Obrador’s decision not to concede defeat signaled the country was far from having a new president. It also meant the special seven-member tribunal set up to handle electoral disputes would end up deciding whether there would be a recount.
Leaders of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s Party of the Democratic Revolution have complained that, during the official tally on Wednesday and today, local election officials ignored their demands that packets of votes from polling places that they thought had unusual results be recounted.
Aides to Mr. López Obrador said he would argue in court that a recount was needed because poll officials had tossed out large number of ballots — 904,000 — because they could not tell in the intention of the voters. These null votes would be enough to change the results of the election, they argue.
Mr. López Obrador is also likely to point out that mistakes were discovered in the few cases in which election officials recounted votes from a particular polling place during the official tally. Many of those mistakes hurt Mr. López Obrador and benefited Mr. Calderón.
As he pulled ahead during the official tally, Mr. Calderón said in the predawn hours this morning that he would fight tooth and nail to keep his victory, however narrow. He and his partisans in the National Action Party have accused Mr. López Obrador of seeking to annul what they consider a legitimate victory with a court challenge.
“We are going to defend the votes and I ask you all to be alert because we are going to call on all of you to make sure these votes are not canceled, that they are not thrown the trash and that no one tries to negate for caprice or for ambition the what 41 million Mexicans have decided,” Mr. Calderón said.
Mr. López Obrador’s decision to hold a rally on Saturday suggested that the leftist candidate would use huge street demonstrations to put public pressure on the court to grant his request. He has a history of using marches to protest what he has considered fraudulent elections that did not go his way. [A reference to the 1994 Tabasco gubernatoral race, which really was stolen by Roberto Madrazo—WW4R] He also used large demonstrations to beat back an attempt to knock him off the ballot with a legal challenge last year.
“Building a democracy has cost a lot in this country and we are not going to give it up easily,” said Federico Arreola, a campaign adviser to Mr. López Obrador. “There is no reason for López Obrador to back out or defend a system that he doesn’t belong to.”
The Federal Electoral Institute will submit the final vote count to the Electoral Tribunal for approval on Sunday, usually a pro-forma process. Mr. López Obrador then will have four days to present his case for a recount.
Prominent Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska noted her own personal experience with electoral irregularities in the daily La Jornada July 4. VivirLatino provides this translation:
Just before 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 2nd, Paula Haro, my daughter, and Lorenzo Hagerman, my son in-law, stood in line to vote on Avenida Revolución, at the Casa de la Cultura Jaime Sabines. Since Paula and Lorenzo don’t live in Mexico City but in Mérida they looked for a special polling place and I accompanied them before I went to my polling place in la colonia del Carmen. By 2:00 pm they (Paula and Lorenzo) still had not voted (because the polling place opened late and there were a lot of voters), as two police officers counted those who were waiting in line out in the sun and said “There are only 750 ballots so there aren’t enough.” In the line appeared a whole bunch of nuns (some about 80 years old) and none of them were denied voting, but at 2:30 p.m. the rest of the line had to give up their chance to vote (after waiting for several hours) because of the lack of ballots. While many went over to the entrance door to yell “We want to vote, we want to vote”, they had no other choice than to disperse.
This was no isolated case and there are more and more reports like this, on top of those that have reported that even with a voter registration card in hand their names were not on the list. If we add together all those who weren’t able to vote for one reason or another — which is in and of itself a violation of their civil rights — wouldn’t the results (which according to the IFE has Calderón leading by 385,000 votes) be reverted?
If we add to this the months of the television terror campaign in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador was presented as the greatest danger, and if we add as well the threats of loss of homes and belongings, the conspiracy and the purchase of votes done in the old PRI style, the daily slandering, and all the ruses of the past that the PAN brought back to life, all the illegal interventions on the part of President Fox causing perennial interruptions in the elections, we Mexicans might have woken up to just another Monday, July 3rd, and not this one which seeks to give us more of the same.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been, in addition, victim of “friendly fire” from the so-called revolutionary left. If [left-wing spoiler candidate] Patricia Mercado would have been as gracious as Heberto Castillo in 1988, who recognized defeat by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, it would be impossible to disguise the difference in votes in favor of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. However, we can’t despair nor resign ourselves. Not all is done. We are mobilized, we have the power of response, we aren’t going to accept that ballots be burned like in 1988, our indignation is red hot, and we are still volcanos under the white summit of Popocatépetl and Ixtacíhuatl.
Her last line seems to predict a social explosion. We may see by the protest march which Lopez Obreado has called for Saturday if her prediction will be cindicated.
See our last post on Mexico.