Mexico Orders Partial Vote Recount of Presidential Ballots

Posted July 4th, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Mexican electoral officials are recounting votes from more than half of the 143,000 polling stations in Sunday's presidential and congressional elections, in response to claims of widespread fraud and other irregularities.

A spokesman for Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, the IFE, said 78,000 ballot boxes will be reopened this week. Edmundo Jacobo announced the recount Wednesday, just hours after initial tallies showed candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), winning the presidency by nearly 7 percentage points over his nearest rival.

However, runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador refused on Tuesday to concede, after accusing the PRI party of vote buying and coercion. Obrador, a leftist, also accused Mexican news media of extending favorable coverage to the PRI, which ruled the country for seven decades until 2000.

Electoral laws passed in 2007 contain recount provisions when final tallies show a difference of one percentage point or less between first and second place finishers. They also permit recounts for “inconsistencies.” Obrador said his workers had detected irregularities at more than 100,000 polling stations.

In 2006, Lopez Obrador demanded a recount after losing the presidency to Felipe Calderone by slightly more than half a percentage point. His requests were refused, triggering protests by the candidate's supporters that choked Mexico City for weeks.

The Associated Press said Tuesday's allegations of widespread vote buying were being fueled by scenes of thousands of people rushing to grocery stores to redeem pre-paid gift cards they said the PRI had given them ahead of Sunday's vote. Several recipients told reporters they had been told to bring a photocopy of their voter identification card in order to receive the gift certificates.

The report also described scenes of shoppers stripping shelves in Ixtapaluca state, and said at least one branch of a chain store was ordered closed in Mexico City for safety code violations. The report said the PRI had denied any irregularities.