- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 8, 2006

MEXICO CITY (AP) — More than 100,000 defiant supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador massed yesterday in a bid to overturn his narrow election defeat with protests that threatened to widen Mexico’s regional and class divisions.

Mr. Lopez Obrador told the huge crowd he would present charges of fraud to the nation’s electoral court today and request that every one of more than 41 million votes be recounted, to expose what he called wrongdoing that cost him the election.

“We are going to ask that they clean up the elections. We are going to ask that they count all the votes — vote-by-vote, poll-by-poll,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said to wide applause.

He called for nationwide marches that would converge on Mexico City in another rally July 16, provoking groans of disappointment when he told demonstrators not to block highways.

“This has been and goes on being a peaceful movement,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said. “We are not going to fall for any provocations.”

The show of defiance suggested just how difficult it will be for apparent victor Felipe Calderon to unify Mexicans, many of whom think the nation has yet to overcome decades of institutional corruption and fraud.

European Union election observers have said they had found no major irregularities, but the ruling party’s Mr. Calderon cannot be declared president-elect until the electoral court weighs accusations of fraud or unfair campaign practices. It has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

Election officials say Mr. Calderon beat Mr. Lopez Obrador by less than 244,000 votes out of a total of 41 million ballots, — a margin of about 0.6 percent.

Most of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s supporters come from poor southern states, but conservative Mr. Calderon’s strength is in Mexico’s industrialized north.

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