MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto was a clear victor in Sunday’s presidential election, according to a second tally of votes made after the runner-up refused to accept defeat.
With 97 percent of polling stations counted by Thursday afternoon, Pena Nieto held 38.3 percent of the vote, nearly 7 points ahead of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
A win for Pena Nieto sets up a return to power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico, at times ruthlessly, between 1929 and 2000.
Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, expected to conclude the final vote count later on Thursday and certify the results on Sunday, when an official count of results from the congressional elections was due.
Pena Nieto claimed victory on Sunday when initial results showed him winning some 38 percent of the vote, about 6.5 points more than Lopez Obrador. Trailing in third was Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
“It’s clear I won by a wide margin,” Pena Nieto told CNN on Thursday, saying there were “no grounds” for allegations of vote-buying lodged by the losing campaigns.
The final count, which includes recounts from more than half the polling stations, could still be subject to a challenge by Lopez Obrador with the country’s electoral tribunal. Lopez Obrador had demanded a recount of all the votes.
Pena Nieto has already been congratulated by outgoing President Felipe Calderon and leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Lopez Obrador alleged there were widespread irregularities, but the IFE has said it was only recounting votes from 54 percent of polling stations based on more specific criteria.
“There is no reason not to fully recognize the voting results,” said Leonardo Valdes, president of the IFE board.
The law stipulates a recount can only be requested at a polling station where there is a gap of less than 1 percentage point between the two leading candidates, or for other “inconsistencies” that could include hard-to-read ballots.
Lopez Obrador denounced what he called vote-buying and coercion on the part of the PRI. The party gained a reputation for vote-rigging during its 71-year hold on power, which ended when it was defeated by the PAN in a 2000 election.
Vazquez Mota of the PAN has levied similar accusations.
“We need the electoral authority to review in detail the campaign spending that evidently surpassed the limits established by the law and moreover were associated with buying and coercing voters,” she told reporters. “We should correct these inequalities so that we can have conditions of genuine competition and full democracy.”
Lopez Obrador also challenged the outcome when he finished a much closer second in the 2006 presidential election. He refused to concede then and called for street protests that blocked the main boulevard in Mexico City for weeks.
Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney