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New Legal Front Opens in Recount Battle

A lawsuit by Lopez Obrador says negative ads before the election should have been halted.

July 26, 2006|Chris Kraul | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday charging Mexico's national electoral board with criminal omission of duties for not stopping negative advertising in the final weeks of the campaign, his latest gambit in a bid to force a recount in the July 2 presidential election.

Lopez Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, fell 244,000 votes short of his competitor Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party and has since pressed his case for a recount of all 41 million votes cast, charging that the balloting was tainted by fraud and mismanagement.

His appeal is now before a seven-judge federal electoral tribunal. Its decision, expected by Aug. 31, could go a number of ways: a partial or full recount, nullification of the election and calls for new balloting, or dismissal of Lopez Obrador's appeal.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of his supporters are expected to march on the capital's historic center.

The suit refers to advertising allegedly paid for by private companies and business associations opposed to Lopez Obrador that, without mentioning the candidate by name, warned voters not to risk economic instability. The Lopez Obrador camp contends that the ads were illegal because they violated rules that forbid all but political parties from buying advertising. Some legal experts dispute that interpretation.

During the campaign, Lopez Obrador successfully filed a complaint to stop negative political ads that Calderon was running in which Lopez Obrador was compared to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

On Monday, Lopez Obrador sent Calderon a letter that he later made public asking his rival to agree to a national recount of the votes cast and that in exchange he would accept the results and not continue with street demonstrations. Lopez Obrador's supporters said at a news conference Monday that a recount was the only way that Calderon, if he prevails, could govern without a "shadow of illegitimacy."

Calderon answered Monday night that the matter was in the hands of the federal electoral tribunal and that political parties didn't have a say in whether there was a recount.

At the news conference Monday, Lopez Obrador supporters said they had found evidence that more than half of the 130,000 balloting stations showed signs of arithmetic errors.

Political scientist Federico Estevez of Mexico City said that, judging from the description, the alleged errors were mistakes that even out over the course of a ballot count and probably would not affect the final outcome.

Times staff writer Carlos Martinez contributed to this report.

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