MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The runner-up in Mexico’s presidential election said on Tuesday he would ask election authorities to recount the votes from Sunday’s contest, alleging it was riddled with fraud.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who finished about 6.5 percentage points behind President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said the election had been corrupted by PRI vote-buying and other abuses.
Stirring up memories of the 2006 election, when he refused to accept defeat and unsettled financial markets by calling out his supporters to stage massive demonstrations in the capital for weeks, Lopez Obrador followed through on hints he dropped during the campaign that he might contest the result.
He said his campaign would ask the Federal Electoral Institute to recount the votes.
“We’re going to ask them to clean up the election and make it transparent,” the he told reporters in Mexico City. “For the good of the democracy and the good of the country, they need to count all the votes.”
Financial markets were unmoved by his announcement on Tuesday.
Lopez Obrador, 58, has repeatedly accused the telegenic Pena Nieto of using illicit funding, breaching campaign spending limits and being supported by Mexico’s mainstream media.
“It’s a national embarrassment how the PRI’s leaders and their sponsors have acted, and the totally immoral way in which Enrique Pena Nieto has behaved,” Lopez Obrador said.
The PRI denies the accusations.
Pena Nieto’s win on Sunday will return the PRI to power after 12 years in opposition when he takes office in December. The PRI governed Mexico between 1929 and 2000, a rule that was blighted by frequent accusations of vote-rigging and corruption.
The electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States said on Monday that “order had prevailed” during the election and labeled it a success.
The former mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador also sought a recount when he narrowly lost the 2006 election to President Felipe Calderon and claimed he had been robbed.
Lopez Obrador’s campaign manager, Ricardo Monreal, said his team was asking for a recount of all the polling booths.
Unlike in 2006, total recounts are now permitted if the circumstances meet certain criteria.
These include a gap of 1 percentage point or less between candidates and when the number of void ballots is bigger than the gap. Neither was the case in this election and officials were still checking whether other criteria could be fulfilled.
In the previous election, Lopez Obrador was defeated by about half a percentage point, or fewer than 250,000 votes. Preliminary results from Sunday’s poll show him lagging the 45-year-old Pena Nieto by more than three million votes.
Pena Nieto has already been congratulated on his win by Calderon and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ricardo Espinoza, a political scientist at the Metropolitan Autonomous University, said Lopez Obrador’s announcement was unlikely to change the final election results and he did not expect the leftist to repeat the protests of 2006.
“His tone is different from 2006,” Espinoza said. “It seems more moderate. Although this kind of thing can change from one day to the next. They could turn more radical.”
Mexicans had mixed feelings about Lopez Obrador’s move.
“Even though I support him, he’s wasting his time,” said Guadalupe Sanabria, a street vendor in Mexico City. “If they didn’t give it to him (in 2006), there’s even less chance of them giving it to him this time around.”
Construction worker Cesar Valdez, 47, said he thought Sunday’s election was fair and that the challenge was “absurd.” “It’s another thing that’s going to hurt the people,” he said. “He should focus more on things that are good for the people.”
Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Gabriel Stargardter; Writing by Dave Graham. Editing by Daniel Trotta and Christopher Wilson