Election recount begins at more than half of Mexico polls

Mexico election recount
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico is recounting votes cast at more than half its polling places during Sunday's presidential election, the electoral body said Wednesday, as reports of vote-buying marred the apparent win of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Ballots from more than 54% of polling places will be recounted within 72 hours, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) said. The figure marks a huge increase over the 9% of ballots that were recounted in the long and contentious aftermath of the disputed 2006 election.

The recount began early Wednesday as part of the IFE's normal procedure of validating results gathered from the institute's 300 electoral districts. By law, ballots are recounted when a polling place shows irregularities, such as more votes cast than there are registered voters, a complete sweep by a single candidate or party, or a 1-percentage-point or smaller margin between first and second place.

Separately, the PRI is facing growing accusations that campaigns gave potential voters supermarket debit cards in exchange for their votes, among other allegations.

"They gave us the cards in the name of the PRI and Rep. Hector Pedroza [a PRI congressional candidate], and they said they were counting on our vote," a 20-year-old university student told the Associated Press at a Soriana supermarket in eastern Mexico City.

The PRI and Soriana chain said in statements that they had no such agreement.

Leftist coalition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has yet to concede defeat after the initial "fast count" that began Sunday night had him about 6 points behind presumed winner Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI.

The recount is not expected to significantly alter the preliminary results. Such a prospect places pressure on Mexico's progressive factions to decide whether they will follow Lopez Obrador on another possible wave of protests and mobilizations like those that shut down the center of Mexico City for weeks after the 2006 vote.

In that race, the final official tally had Lopez Obrador lose the election to current conservative President Felipe Calderon by less than half a percentage point. The leftist leader never accepted those results.

As in 2006, the Lopez Obrador campaign is claiming widespread fraud in the 2012 vote. He reiterated his call for a vote-by-vote recount at every polling place. His campaign also said it would send scores of complaints of vote-tampering and vote-buying to Mexico's electoral tribunal.

"What we are demanding is that the electoral authorities ... assume their responsibility," Lopez Obrador said.

Meanwhile, the emergent national student movement known as #YoSoy132 held an all-day assembly at the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to determine how it would proceed after the apparent Peña Nieto victory.

Due in large part to huge demonstrations led by #YoSoy132 movement, the results of the  election have cast a harsh light on the relationship between the PRI; Peña Nieto; and the two leading media networks in Mexico, which control 95% of the airwaves.

Throughout the campaign, most polls showed Peña Nieto with a lead of 12 to 18 points over Lopez Obrador, but the initial results of the actual vote showed the spread to be half that.

The Times noted this week that the PRI's win is weaker than initially expected. And for Calderon's ruling National Action Party, or PAN, the 2012 results are an "unmitigated wreck," as a former party president put it. 

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-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: An official with the Federal Electoral Institute in Mexico City checks one of the ballots cast in Sunday's national election. Credit: Alex Cruz / European Pressphoto Agency

 
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