Mexico City: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who secured second spot in recently-concluded Mexico's Presidential Election, on Friday vowed to file a formal legal challenge to the vote count in a court.
López Obrador claims that illicit money was used to buy votes and secure the victory of Enrique Peña Nieto, whose victory was confirmed by a recount on Friday.
The official count in the election showed that former ruling party candidate Peña Nieto won by a 6.6 percentage-point margin, almost exactly the same lead as a vote-night quick count gave him.
The final count by the country's electoral authority, which included a ballot-by-ballot recount at more than half of polling places, showed Peña Nieto getting 38.21 percent of votes in Sunday's election. Leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador got 31.59 percent.
López Obrador said he will file a formal legal challenge to the vote count in electoral courts next week, based on the allegation that Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, engaged in vote-buying that illegally tilted millions of votes. PRI officials deny the charge.
"Rivers of illicitly obtained money were used to buy millions of votes," López Obrador told a news conference on Friday. He also claimed that the recount of ballots at over half of polling places had not been carried out as thoroughly as promised.
Josefina Vazquez Mota of the conservative National Action Party got 25.41 percent of votes cast, and the small New Alliance Party got 2.29 percent, barely passing the two-percent barrier needed to preserve the party's place on future ballots.
Almost 2.5 percent of ballots where voided; while some voters in Mexico void their ballots as a form of protest, some also simply make mistakes in marking them.
The final vote count must be certified in September by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The tribunal has declined to overturn previously contested elections, including a 2006 presidential vote that was far closer than Sunday's.
Accusations of vote-buying began surfacing in June, but sharpened early this week as thousands of people rushed to grocery stores on the outskirts of Mexico City to redeem pre-paid gift cards worth about 100 pesos (USD 7.50). Many said they got the cards from PRI supporters before Sunday's elections.
López Obrador said millions of voters had received either pre-paid cards, cash, groceries, construction materials or appliances. López Obrador would not rule out street protests, like the one he led in 2006 to protest alleged fraud in the Presidential Elections of that year, which he narrowly lost to president Felipe Calderon.
But he said on Thursday that his challenge of the results would be channelled through legal venues, like the electoral institute and courts.
"We have acted and we will continue to act in a responsible way, adhering to the legal procedure. Nobody can say we are violating the law," López Obrador said.
Leonardo Valdes, the president of the Federal Electoral Institute, said he doesn't see any grounds for overturning the results.
"I do not see any justification for rejecting the entirety of the election results," Valdes said. "Rejecting the results would be like rejecting the effort of those 50 million voters."
However, he said the institute, Mexico's chief electoral watchdog agency, had begun an investigation into the gift cards, and had requested that the PRI and the grocery store chain that issued the cards turn over information.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Saturday, July 07, 2012, 14:01