August 28, 2006

Mexican electoral court finds no fraud

By Chris Aspin and Greg Brosnan

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's top electoral court threw
out allegations of massive fraud in last month's presidential
election on Monday, handing almost certain victory to
conservative candidate Felipe Calderon.

The seven judges voted unanimously to reject almost all the
legal complaints by left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador, who said he was robbed of victory in the July 2 vote.

The leftist, who has vowed to make Mexico ungovernable if
Calderon becomes president, refused to accept the ruling.

The court stopped short of formally naming Calderon the
winner, but reported only marginal changes after examining the
results of a partial recount and throwing out more than 230,000
ballots because of voting irregularities.

Calderon vowed not to let protests rattle his victory.

"I won't let something that's been decided by all the
citizens be undermined by a few in a violent way," he said.

The initial result showed Calderon, a former energy
minister from the ruling National Action Party, won the
election by 244,000 votes, or just 0.58 of a percentage point.

Lopez Obrador says there were serious irregularities at
more than half the polling stations. He has repeatedly demanded
a recount of all 41 million votes cast and said Monday's ruling
was "offensive and unacceptable for millions of Mexicans."

"It represents not only a disgrace in the history of our
country but also a violation of the constitutional order and a
true coup d'etat," he told some 2,000 followers in the main
Zocalo square.

Judges scrapped the results from hundreds of polling
stations where major irregularities were confirmed, but it made
little difference, cutting out 81,080 votes for Calderon and
76,897 for Lopez Obrador.

Court president Leonel Castillo said Lopez Obrador's claims
of huge fraud were "completely unfounded."

The judges, whose rulings are final and cannot be appealed,
must still rule on whether the entire election was fair and
formally declare a president-elect by September 6, but that is
widely seen as a formality.


Mexico's peso gained 0.83 percent and the stock market rose
1.1 percent as investors were convinced that pro-business
Calderon will take over from President Vicente Fox on December

The election split Mexico between left and right, rich and
poor. The crisis over alleged fraud is the most serious
challenge to its democracy since Fox's election victory in 2000
ended seven decades of one-party rule.

Calderon would be a regional U.S. ally and could
counterbalance the influence of leftist foes like Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez.

He pledged on Monday to mend the class rift in Mexico by
helping low-income groups like sugar cane workers, peasant
farmers, artisans and indigenous people.

"I don't want several Mexicos. I don't want an impoverished
Mexico. I want one single, strongly developed Mexico with solid
economic growth," he told lawmakers.

If Calderon's victory is confirmed by the court, Lopez
Obrador says, he will lead a civil resistance movement against
his rival or set up some kind of parallel government.

A small group of leftist protesters demonstrated outside
the court, holding photos of Calderon labeled "traitor."

"The damned judges are corrupt. They are stealing the
election from us," said housewife Josefina Mondragon, 55.

One judge, Fernando Ojesto, said the court would rule on
the election's validity in the coming days and give a final
vote count.

"We can tell people that today their votes were worth
something and that they are definitive," he said.