MEXICO CITY, Jul 6 – Final results which should confirm Enrique Pena Nieto’s presidential election win in Mexico dragged on late Thursday, but his rival steadfastly claimed that a massive vote-buying scheme had been used.
With virtually all of the vote counted Pena Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) held a nearly seven point lead over challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
Final results had been scheduled to be announced in the morning, but were delayed three times. At 0130 GMT (Friday), slightly more than one percent of the vote still needed to be tallied, mainly from remote towns in rural Mexico, according to data from the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).
The youthful Pena Nieto, 45, an ex-governor of populous State of Mexico, is married to glamorous telenovela star Angelica Rivera and benefited from family connections with powerful old guard PRI politicos, as well as a savvy media team that carefully stage-managed his appearances.
Initial results from Sunday’s vote showed Pena Nieto with 38 percent against 31 percent for Lopez Obrador. Four days later the results were nearly the same.
The final ballot counting included a vote-by-vote recount of results at more than half of the country’s polling stations.
Lopez Obrador held an evening press conference reiterating his claim that the PRI sought to “buy” votes by distributing 1.8 million gift cards worth “billions of pesos.”
“All of this is documented,” Lopez Obrador said, saying that his leftist coalition filed complaints with election officials as early as February.
“The authorities did not pay attention to us,” he said. “This is not one isolated case … we’re talking about millions of bought votes.”
The PRI was synonymous with the Mexican state as it governed for seven decades until 2000 using a mixture of patronage, repression, rigged elections and bribery.
Lopez Obrador however did not call for mass protests in the same way as he did in 2006, when he lost by less than one percent, claimed fraud and organized demonstrations that more or less paralyzed Mexico City for over a month.
“We will continue acting in a respectful way in accordance with the law,” he said.
An anti-PRI “mega march” has been announced for Saturday in Mexico City via online forums and flyers handed out in the street, but it is unclear who is organizing it.
The conservative National Action Party (PAN) also filed a complaint over alleged PRI bank cash cards before the vote. The PRI in turn filed complaints against both its rivals alleging gifts to voters.
Lopez Obrador said his party “has never bought a vote. We have moral authority” on this issue.
Outgoing president Felipe Calderon, meanwhile, told the Milenio daily that displeasure with his administration was a factor contributing to the poor showing of PAN candidates.
The party’s presidential hopeful Josefina Vazquez Mota came in third with about 24 percent of the vote, and other candidates lost important regional governorships and seats in Mexico’s congress.
Vazquez Mota on Thursday told reporters that campaign expenses should be scrutinized “with a magnifying glass” — an indirect swipe at the PRI. “We cannot let the illegal use of resources go unpunished,” she said.
Pena Nieto, who declared victory late Sunday, inherits a country beset by a brutal drug war and an economy struggling to create jobs.
Mexico’s putative next president moved quickly to try to allay fears that the corrupt practices of the once authoritarian PRI could make a comeback.
“We are a new generation. We are not returning to the past. My government has its sights set on the future,” he told foreign reporters on Monday.
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have already congratulated Pena Nieto on his apparent victory.