Mexico Vote Tally Gives Free-Trader A Narrow Victory

Felipe Calderón, whose margin of victory in the presidential election was about 200,000 votes, celebrates with supporters in Mexico City.
Felipe Calderón, whose margin of victory in the presidential election was about 200,000 votes, celebrates with supporters in Mexico City. (By Dario Lopez-mills -- Associated Press)

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By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 7, 2006

MEXICO CITY, July 6 -- Felipe Calderón, a former energy secretary who promised to boost free trade, narrowly won Mexico's ferociously contested presidential election late Thursday after an all-night count yielded a much-disputed official tally.

Calderón's main opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, refused to concede and demanded a recount, and it appeared that the winner of Sunday's balloting would ultimately be decided in court.

The final results showed Calderón with 35.88 percent of the votes, just 200,000 more than López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, who collected 35.31 percent. It was the closest presidential election in the country's history.

Even before Mexico's electoral commission released the final tally, López Obrador had demanded a recount and called on his supporters to join him for a rally Saturday in Mexico City's downtown square, the Zocalo.

"We cannot accept the results," he said twice at a packed news conference. "There are many irregularities."

Outside, protesters dressed in bright yellow, the signature color of López Obrador's Democratic Revolutionary Party, chanted: "The Mexican people will rise! No to fraud!"

López Obrador's defiance strikes at Mexico's institutional base. He accused the country's electoral commission, which is widely respected among international experts, of being biased.

At the news conference, López Obrador sliced his right hand through the air, saying Calderón had delivered "a blow" against him by claiming victory.

"No one should be claiming victory today," he said.

López Obrador vowed to challenge the results before Mexico's special elections court, which must decide before Sept. 6 whether to certify the results or order a new election.

Many analysts here said that if Calderón's victory is upheld, he will suffer the effects of a weak mandate. He was backed by barely more than one-third of voters, and would have to work with a sharply divided Congress.

"I'm asking those who didn't vote for me to give me the opportunity to gain their confidence," Calderón said Thursday. "I know that I should make mine the desires and the hopes of those who didn't vote for me."


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