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Runner-Up Chides Mexico Election Agency

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The Associated Press
Thursday, July 27, 2006; 6:41 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's leftist presidential candidate said Thursday the electoral agency has abandoned its autonomous role and become a tool of the ruling party, and he promised to send campaign advisers abroad to lobby foreign governments for support in his battle for the presidency.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had lost faith in the respected Federal Electoral Institute, also known as the IFE, and doesn't want it overseeing the national recount he demands. He said the IFE has become a tool of the ruling party.

"You can't take IFE people seriously," he said, "They don't act according to the law."

An IFE spokesman declined to respond to Lopez Obrador's accusations, but electoral officials and most international observers have said the election was largely fair.

The AP interview came as Lopez Obrador's supporters released dozens of chickens outside the IFE building, then barged into a council meeting, dumped white carnations on the tables and remained peacefully watching the council go about its business.

An official count by the IFE gave conservative Felipe Calderon an advantage of less than 0.6 percent in the July 2 elections. Lopez Obrador is disputing the lead in Mexico's top electoral court, which has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner or annul the race.

Several foreign governments, including the U.S., have congratulated Calderon on his apparent win. Lopez Obrador said Thursday his advisers would visit countries to inform governments and organizations about the fraud allegations. One adviser, Manuel Camacho, was already in Washington this week.

"Sometimes, foreign governments make bad decisions for lack of information," Lopez Obrador said.

Calderon said Thursday he supported the IFE because it was the only way to leave behind Mexico's once-fraudulent past. He criticized "pretentious people who try to substitute the will of Mexicans."

Lopez Obrador has filed a nearly 900-page complaint demanding that the Federal Electoral Tribunal order a ballot-by-ballot recount of the election results.

Electoral officials and President Vicente Fox's National Action Party have argued that, under Mexican law, officials can only recount results if a party challenges them and the court finds evidence of irregularities. Lopez Obrador's party has presented challenges for about 40 percent of the polling places.

But Lopez Obrador insisted Thursday that the electoral tribunal has the authority to order a full recount.

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