MASSIVE VOTE RECOUNT
By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer
July 5, 2006
CITY - As Mexico launched the official recount of presidential vote tallies Wednesday, conservative
Felipe Calderon insisted his slim lead from a preliminary count would hold, and said he would be willing to include his leftist
rival in his Cabinet as a show of unity.
"Mexico needs us all," Calderon said in an exclusive interview with The Associated
In spite of Calderon's confidence,
the recount as of late Wednesday showed the former Mexico City
mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador with a slight lead. It was considered far from certain that the trend would hold.
Insisting he was victorious,
Lopez Obrador threatened to ignore the final tally because of "serious evidence of fraud."
Calderon told the AP he
would be willing to include his leftist rival in his Cabinet — an effort to build a coalition government and avoid weeks
of political impasse. But he said he did not believe Lopez Obrador would accept, adding that the two men had not spoken to
each other since Sunday's election.
Election workers at 300
district headquarters across the country were adding up the tallies compiled election day by poll volunteers. Under law, they
must work around the clock. With 88 percent of the tally sheets recounted, Lopez Obrador had 36 percent, compared with 35
percent for Calderon. There was no way to know whether that trend would hold.
The preliminary count completed
earlier in the week had Calderon winning by 1 percentage point. Leonel Cota, president of Lopez Obrador's party, accused election
officials of deliberately mishandling that count to confirm a win for Calderon, the ruling-party candidate. He said Lopez
Obrador won Sunday's vote.
"We are not going to recognize
an election that showed serious evidence of fraud, that was dirty from the start, manipulated from the start," he said.
When polls closed, citizens
staffing the 130,488 polling places opened the ballot boxes and counted the votes, then sealed them into packages with their
tallies attached and reported unofficial totals to the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE.
The institute then posted preliminary results on its Web site from about 41 million ballots cast.
The sealed packages were
delivered to district headquarters, where elections workers used the tallies Wednesday to add up the formal, legal vote totals.
Workers were not reviewing
individual ballots except when the packages appeared tampered with or their tallies were missing, illegible or inconsistent
— including at least 2.6 million ballots likely to shrink Calderon's lead to 0.64 percent if included, election officials
At one electoral office
in Mexico City, officials opened a ballot box because the
vote tally was missing. The votes were then re-counted out loud while 10 party representatives stood by with tape recorders
and video cameras.
"I'm exhausted. I'm still
tired from election day," said counter Rocio Sanchez, 41, an IFE
employee. "But this is something we have to do by law."
Cota said Democratic Revolution
would not recognize the results without a ballot-by-ballot recount. But IFE President Luis Carlos Ugalde said that was not
"Mexican law is very clear
on when a ballot box can be opened: only when there are problems with the vote tallies, when the tally sheet has obviously
been changed, or when the box has been tampered with," Ugalde said.
Once the count is complete,
the seven-judge Federal Electoral Tribunal hears any complaints and can overturn elections. By law, it must certify a winner
by Sept. 6, and its decision is final.
Cota said the party might
take its case to international tribunals.
Ugalde scolded both candidates
for prematurely declaring victory, saying: "No political party can declare or affirm, at this time, that its candidate has
received the largest number of votes."
Lopez Obrador called again
Wednesday for his supporters to remain calm, but he could mobilize millions — as he has in past legal disputes —
and he hinted Wednesday that he might.
"The political stability
of the country hangs in the balance," he said.
In the AP interview, Calderon
said demonstrations would be irresponsible.
"Elections are not won on
the street," he said. "They are won in the voting places."
The review that began Wednesday
is a crucial step in proving the elections were clean to a nation that emerged only six years ago from 71 years of one-party
rule replete with election fraud. Failure to convince the public and candidates it has been a fair vote could spark widespread
"Such a close race is a
nightmare scenario," said Ted Lewis, an election observer for the San Francisco-based Global Exchange. "If the ruling party
wins by a hair, a lot of people will jump to the conclusion that something is amiss."
Most international observers
said the election was fair and properly carried out by Mexico's world-renowned system, held up as a model to emerging democracies
in Iraq and Haiti.
There have been fears that
the battle over the presidency could turn violent. There were scattered protests Wednesday in favor of Lopez Obrador, all
of them peaceful.
About 35 people set up camp Wednesday outside IFE's
gates, draping banners that accused electoral officials of being traitors, and about 300 protesters marched down Mexico City's broad Reforma
Avenue carrying a banner reading: "Respect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's victory!"
"We're not going to let
them get away with this," said 62-year-old Enrique Flores, a retired Mexico City