Felipe Calderon won the official count in Mexico's disputed presidential race Thursday, the culmination of a come-from-behind campaign for the stiff technocrat from the country's ruling part. But his leftist rival also declared victory and said he'd fight the election in court.
Calderon was already reaching out to other parties to build a "unity government," while his rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, blamed fraud for his narrow loss in the vote count and called on his supporters to fill Mexico City's main square Saturday in a show of force.
With the 41 million votes counted, Calderon of President Vicente Fox's National Action Party had 35.89 percent, or 15 million votes, to 35.31 percent, or 14.8 million votes, for Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party, said Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE.
Roberto Madrazo, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party controlled Mexico for 71 years until Fox's victory in 2000, had 22.26 percent, and two minor candidates split the rest.
Ugalde confirmed Calderon as the winner at a news conference several hours after the final vote recount was made public. The IFE will not declare him president-elect, however; that is the responsibility of the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The tribunal has until Aug. 31 to resolve any challenges regarding the recount, and Sept. 6 to officially declare who is president-elect.
The next president begins a single, six-year term on December 1.
Mexican stocks closed 2.7 percent higher and the peso rebounded Thursday on news of Calderon's lead in the vote count. The markets closed before the count was finished.
But many obstacles remain in Calderon's path. If his triumph is upheld by electoral courts, he will face a Congress dominated by opposition parties, as well as a divided nation that sends millions north to work in the United States illegally.
Calderon called on all parties to put aside politics as usual "and work together as a team."
To scattered boos, he reached out to Lopez Obrador, saying, "I not only reiterate my respect but also share his desire for justice, and I reiterate my commitment to work tirelessly ... for great equality and opportunity that will allow millions of Mexicans to overcome poverty."
Calderon wants to rely on Mexico's many free-trade accords to create jobs. He has vowed to crack down on rising crime and says he'll try to smooth US relations without letting Washington dominate.
"I want to establish a very constructive relationship without bowing my head and lowering my eyes to the Americans," Calderon said in heavily accented English during an interview with The Associated Press.
"I have met with President Bush several times. I have interviewed with President Bush and several members of the American Congress, and I know it's possible to establish a more constructive relationship, and that would be very good for both countries."
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