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Calderon Leads Mexico Presidential Race

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By TRACI CARL
The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; 2:52 AM

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's ruling party candidate held onto his narrow lead in the disputed presidential election after a partial recount of votes, the top electoral court said Monday in a strong indication that conservative Felipe Calderon will be declared the winner.

But the judges held off on naming the president-elect and still have the option to annul the election.

Calderon's leftist challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reacted to the court's announcement in outrage, calling on supporters never to accept Calderon as president and asking them to decide if he should form a parallel government or carry on a nationwide campaign of protests.

"We will never allow an illegal and illegitimate government to be installed in our country," he told thousands gathered in Mexico City's central plaza, calling acceptance of Calderon tantamount to a coup d'etat.

Calderon said he was satisfied with the tribunal's decision because it supported the votes of millions of Mexicans.

"We are on the right path," he said.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal announced the number of votes it had annulled as the result of 375 challenges to the July 2 election, reducing Calderon's 240,000-vote lead over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by just over 4,000 votes.

However, the judges held off on announcing a final vote tally or ruling on Lopez Obrador's allegation that the ruling party used illegal tactics during the campaign, both of which must be decided by Sept. 6. If they agree the ruling party broke the law, they could annul the election, though that now seems unlikely.

Lopez Obrador had demanded a full recount of all 41 million votes, claiming that would swing the lead in his favor. Instead, the top electoral court ordered a recount of the 9 percent of all the polling places where they believed there was evidence of irregularities.

Lopez Obrador's party has argued the campaign was dirty and that fraud was responsible for Calderon's slight lead _ which amounted to 0.6 percent of the ballots cast. He and his supporters have also questioned the Federal Electoral Tribunal's ability to resolve the dispute fairly. After the results of the partial recount, Lopez Obrador said "the judges made a political decision, not a judicial one."

"Today the Electoral Tribunal decided to validate the fraud against the will of the citizens expressed at the ballot boxes," he said.

"With this decision, constitutional order is broken and the path is opened to a usurper."


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