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Losing Candidates Cry Fraud in Mexico’s Vote

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The tactics appeared to be vintage Chicago--but also modern Mexico.

Opposition candidates from the states of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi, which had the most competitive of the gubernatorial elections held last week, have presented evidence of government fraud: Polling booths with more votes than voters, altered tally sheets and seemingly disproportionate sweeps for the ruling party.

The two states were considered to be important tests of the government’s commitment to democracy, and in both cases the opposition claims that the election was stolen on behalf of candidates from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI.

“I beg the people’s pardon for having trusted in the high officials whom I thought would respect the move toward democracy,” the opposition coalition candidate, Salvador Nava, told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally Sunday. “I am convinced that we will not achieve democracy through elections.”

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In Guanajuato, the conservative National Action Party’s candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada, has held several demonstrations and launched a boycott against radio stations that refused to air his advertisements during the campaign. His supporters are protesting around the clock outside the State Electoral Tribunal, where the party has filed charges of irregularities in more than 700 of the 3,600 polling places.

Official results gave 53% of the vote to the ruling party’s candidate, Ramon Aguirre, and 35% to Fox. A third candidate, Porfirio Munoz Ledo of the left-of-center Democratic Revolutionary Party, received 7.7%. He also asserts that Fox won.

“We have not the least doubt that this election was unjust, unequal and undemocratic,” Fox said at a Mexico City press conference Wednesday. “In Guanajuato, we will not permit them to continue imposing rulers on us. We will not accept Ramon Aguirre as the winner in this vice-ridden election.”

Government officials insist that the elections were clean. They charge that the opposition equates democracy with the PRI’s defeat.

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Fox said that in 500 polling places, the official tallies recorded more votes than the number of people who cast ballots. For example, he showed reporters the tally from a polling place in Jerecuaro where only 150 people voted but the ruling party received 336 votes.

National Action protested the results from another 200 polls where they allege a variety of illegalities, including the expulsion of their observers from the polls on election day, a lack of ballot boxes and multiple voting by identified government supporters.

He said that at 500 polls, the PRI received an enormously disproportionate vote--several hundred compared to a couple for the opposition--which could not be protested legally but which were highly suspect.

The PRI published an open letter to the people of Guanajuato accusing the opposition of attempting to “distort the truth and confuse the public” and asserting that the fraud charges are supported “neither by reason nor by the law.”

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Pre-election opinion polls and a Gallup exit survey showed the PRI’s Aguirre to be winning, it said.

If the electoral tribunal rules against him, Fox said, he will take the dispute to the federal Chamber of Deputies.

In San Luis Potosi, opposition campaign workers presented similar tallies to reporters but said they would not challenge the results legally because the electoral institutions are run by the PRI and those loyal to the official party.

One document from San Luis Potosi, from Poll 33 of District 7, shows that 212 people voted but that the PRI received 557 votes. The opposition’s Nava received none.

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The voter registration list from Poll 29-B, District 3 that was given to Nava’s workers before the election had 349 names on it, while the list at the polling place on election day had only 325 names. The final results gave the PRI 503 votes and none to the opposition.

Nava was supported by National Action, the Democratic Revolutionary Party and the rightist Mexican Democratic Party. He won the state’s two urban districts, but in rural districts where he lacked observers, the PRI’s Zapata won with up to 84% of the vote.

Nava campaign workers claim that at least 100,000 people who registered to vote were not able to do so because they did not receive credentials or because their names did not appear on voter lists at the polls. They charge that the government “shaved” off the names of identified opposition supporters.

The government admits that 3 million people nationwide did not receive their credentials because of technical problems, but officials denied that voters were screened for their politics or that any one party was hurt more than another.

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