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Mexico Candidate Claiming Election Fraud

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The Associated Press
Monday, July 10, 2006; 1:30 AM

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's leading leftist presidential candidate asked the country's top electoral court late Sunday to order a ballot-by-ballot recount of last week's election, as his party turned over nine boxes of evidence of alleged fraud and dirty campaign practices.

The 900-page claim alleged that some polling places had more votes than registered voters, the ruling party funneled government money to conservative Felipe Calderon's campaign and exceeded spending limits, and a software program was used to skew initial vote-count reports.

"We have proof that basic rules were flagrantly violated," said Ricardo Monreal, a representative for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost the July 2 election to Calderon by a razor-thin margin.

Mexico's Federal Electoral Court will review the case, which includes videos, campaign propaganda and electoral documents. The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

The legal challenge came a day after Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, held a mammoth rally in Mexico City's historic center and called on his followers to help overturn Calderon's narrow victory. Lopez Obrador isn't seeking to annul the election, but to force authorities to conduct a manual recount of all 41 million ballots.

"This was a very irregular election and we are asking that they count vote by vote to legitimize the president elect," Gerardo Fernandez, a spokesman for Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, said outside the tribunal Sunday night as he waited for lawyers to arrive.

"We won't recognize Calderon's triumph unless they legitimize the election," he said.

Election officials said Thursday that Felipe Calderon beat Lopez Obrador by less than 244,000 votes in the July 2 election _ or a margin of just 0.6 percent.

But Lopez Obrador contends some of his votes weren't counted or were voided without reason. He has millions of devoted followers who believe only he can help Mexico's poor and downtrodden, and he has long used street protests to pressure the government and courts.

Lopez Obrador's claims also include allegations that President Vicente Fox used government funds to support Calderon, the candidate of Fox's conservative National Action Party.

Fox has denied interfering in the elections, and election monitors from the European Union said they found no irregularities in the vote count.

But fraud allegations strike a sensitive nerve with many Mexicans. They question whether Mexico has overcome decades of institutional corruption and fraud that long favored the ruling party _ the Institutional Revolutionary Party for 71 years until it lost the presidency to Fox in 2000.

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