Archive for Sunday, August 6, 2006

Judges order limited recount of Mexican presidential race

August 6, 2006

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— Rejecting the principal demand of the leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico's highest electoral court ordered Saturday only a limited recount of votes in the disputed July 2 race for president.

Reaction was fierce and swift. Outside the tribunal building, Lopez Obrador supporters called the judges "rats," "traitors" and "sell-outs." They vowed to expand protests that have paralyzed downtown Mexico City. And one party leader warned ominously that the tenor of the demonstrations might change.

"We have been peaceful, but now there is a risk," said Emilio Serrano Jimenez, a Mexico City congressman from the Democratic Revolutionary Party. "This is putting in jeopardy the peaceful stability of the country."

Lopez Obrador narrowly lost to the conservative Felipe Calderon in a bitter, expensive election that exposed Mexico's deep ideological and regional differences.

But the popular ex-mayor of Mexico City refused to accept the official results, charging that fraud, conspiracies and mistakes gave Calderon the victory.

Both candidates appealed to the seven electoral judges, who are the highest paid public servants in Mexico and whose decisions cannot be appealed.

Lopez Obrador sought a recount, "vote by vote, precinct by precinct." Calderon asked the court to confirm his victory.

Thousands gather Saturday in support of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to demand a ballot-by-ballot recount of the July 2 elections at the main Zocalo plaza in Mexico City.

Thousands gather Saturday in support of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to demand a ballot-by-ballot recount of the July 2 elections at the main Zocalo plaza in Mexico City.

Instead, the court unanimously found ground in-between.

It rejected the arguments of Lopez Obrador's coalition that every ballot box in all 300 electoral districts must be opened and reviewed because the whole election was tainted by, among other things, favoritism on the part of federal authorities. The court decided instead that it would look only at those districts in which specific challenges were made. It reviewed those complaints, the judges said, and decided they were valid enough to warrant a recount in 149 electoral districts spread out across all but six states.

While Lopez Obrador's attorneys argued that they had documented irregularities in more than half of Mexico's 130,000 precincts, the court ordered a recount in fewer than 12,000. That is about 9 percent of the total.

"I am absolutely in favor of this decision," said Luis Felipe Cruz Lesbros, a citizen electoral monitor from the state of Queretaro who came to hear the court's ruling Saturday. "The judges are correcting the errors that were made, in those cases where there were challenges. And errors were made."

If turnout at the targeted precincts was in line with turnout elsewhere, nearly 3.8 million votes might be recounted.

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