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Mexican Court Rules Against Challenges to Presidential Vote

By James C. Mckinley Jr.
THE NEW YORK TIMES


MEXICO CITY

Felipe Calderon seemed virtually assured of being named president of Mexico next week after the country’s highest electoral tribunal on Monday threw out legal challenges from his leftist opponent, who claims that widespread fraud warped the results of last month’s national election.

The seven-member tribunal stopped short of officially naming Calderon, a conservative, president-elect. But it ruled unanimously that the opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, had failed to prove that irregularities in many of the polling places stemmed from fraud, nor that the errors affected him more than his opponent.

The judges said in open court on Monday that they had ordered the votes from scores of polling places annulled for irregularities found in a partial recount, but that the final result would not change. They also made it clear they found no evidence of fraud.

“Based on all the annulments that were deemed necessary, all the parties lost a considerable number of votes, but that did not affect the result,” said Magistrate Joss Alejandro Luna Ramos.

Lopez Obrador, 53, the former mayor of Mexico City who favors spending more on the poor, has declared he will not accept the ruling, calling it part of a conspiracy to rob him of victory.

Calderon, a 44-year-old former energy commissioner from the National Action Party of President Vicente Fox, narrowly won the July 2 presidential election by 243,000 votes out of 41 million ballots, according to the initial official tally. A fiscal and social conservative, he has promised to entice foreign investment through public works and a flat tax.

Speaking to lawmakers in Mexico City, Calderon said he was pleased the court’s ruling had confirmed his victory. “Just as important as the result of the tribunal’s ruling,” he said, “is that the citizens know the quality of the election we had, that doubts are cleared away and all the malice that has been sown among the citizens is eliminated.”

The court annulled 81,080 votes for Calderon and 76,897 for Lopez Obrador after recounting ballots in about 9 percent of the precincts to satisfy legal challenges. Crossing out those votes gave the leftist candidate a boost of 4,183 votes, far fewer than he needed to catch up, electoral officials said.

The court has until Sept. 6 to issue a final tally and name the president-elect. The decision cannot be appealed.