Mexico leftist cries fraud with election videos

By Greg Brosnan

MEXICO CITY - The leftist candidate who lost a contested Mexican presidential election showed what he called video proof of fraud today and would not commit to accepting a court ruling on the results.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, has asked an electoral court to reverse a narrow victory in the July 2 election for conservative Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party or PAN.

Today, Lopez Obrador played amateur video that he said documented acts of fraud by his rivals. Questioned by reporters, he also said only that he would wait to see the court ruling on his lawsuit before deciding if he would accept it.

Lopez Obrador, who lost by less than 1 percentage point, is rallying his supporters to take part in mass protests this week to call attention to his claims that the vote count was manipulated in favour of Calderon.

Brushing off the fraud claims, former energy minister Calderon is already acting as if the president's job were his. He drew a mild rebuke from the White House for criticising US moves to fortify the border and deploy National Guard troops to stem illegal immigration.

Calderon is forming a transition team in preparation for taking power on December 1 but will not announce a cabinet yet.

Using a large screen at his campaign headquarters, anti-poverty campaigner Lopez Obrador played two shaky amateur videos he said were among substantial footage supporters had sent him which proved he was cheated out of victory.

One video showed a purported PAN supporter in the central state of Guanajuato stuffing a ballot box for congressional elections held the same day as the presidential vote.

The other, taken in neighbouring Queretaro state during the presidential vote recount, showed what appeared to be an electoral official refusing to recount a ballot box that later turned out to have discrepancies in favour of Calderon.

"This is old-style fraud," Lopez Obrador, upbeat and smiling, told reporters, saying similar instances of fraud had taken place across the country

"I am certain the people are not going to permit this abuse," he said, repeating his demand for a nationwide, vote-by-vote recount.

Vote rigging was widespread in Mexico during the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which President Vicente Fox defeated at elections in 2000.

But a European Union team of observers said last week there was no major fraud in this election and foreign leaders including US President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have called Calderon to congratulate him.

Harvard-educated Calderon, 43, is tapping loyalists to lead his transition team but is far from naming his cabinet, senior aide Arturo Sarukhan told Reuters.

"I don't foresee any announcement on the cabinet for two or three months," Sarukhan told Reuters.

Calderon said on Saturday he would continue Fox's drive to ease immigration restrictions for millions of Mexicans living illegally in the United States, and he chided Washington for some of its border enforcement efforts.

"Last time I checked, Calderon did not have any official authority over the activities of the United States government," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters in Washington when asked about Calderon's criticism.

Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer who has a long history of organising protests, rallied more than 100,000 people in the capital's Zocalo square on Sunday.

He filed a legal challenge to the result yesterday and has called supporters to hold more marches this week.

Party aides have said Lopez Obrador will accept the ruling by the electoral court even if it confirms his loss, but today the candidate was noncommittal.

"We'll wait to see," Lopez Obrador told a news conference when asked if he would accept the court's decision. "We'll wait for the result," he said when asked the question again.

- REUTERS

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