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Zedillo Says He’ll Win Without Fraud

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vowing a new age of federalism and reform, ruling party presidential hopeful Ernesto Zedillo told more than 100,000 cheering supporters at his final rally in the capital Sunday that he will win next week’s crucial elections without fear or fraud.

The 42-year-old economist, echoing the main theme of his five-month campaign beneath a 50-foot hot-air balloon bearing his name, said the Institutional Revolutionary Party that has been in power for more than six decades represents the only choice for stability in times of uncertainty.

“We represent unity--not confrontation,” he said, suggesting that he is the best choice because the safest change is one that comes from within. “We advocate a democracy strengthened by a genuine division of powers, where centralism will be replaced by a new federalism.”

Zedillo, who is leading his two main rivals by wide margins in several national polls, has had the shortest time to campaign. He was selected by the ruling party after its original candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was assassinated during a Tijuana campaign rally in March.

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Security on Sunday was tight in the historic Zocalo, with dozens of bodyguards in dark suits flanking the stage to protect Zedillo. The candidate staged his capital city finale in the same square where, just a day earlier, his two chief rivals had called on tens of thousands of their supporters to end the ruling party’s 65-year monopoly on power.

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, whom the opinion polls showed running second but who could benefit from the large number of undecided voters, had urged his supporters Saturday to use their vote for a “peaceful and democratic change” that would turn out a ruling party he called “the world’s oldest oligarchy.”

“It is not a leap into the darkness that we propose but a leap into freedom and democracy,” he said under banners bearing the name of his conservative National Action Party and his campaign slogan, “The only secure change.”

Earlier Saturday, as hundreds of doves released by supporters of his leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party circled overhead, third-place hopeful Cuauhtemoc Cardenas vowed a campaign of nonviolent protest if the elections are tainted by ruling party fraud. Cardenas, the son of beloved former President Lazaro Cardenas, believes he was cheated out of the presidency through massive fraud during the last elections in 1988.

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“We won’t tolerate another . . . unelected government like the current one. We won’t be humiliated and ridiculed,” he shouted to a crowd observers estimated at 100,000.

In response to such concerns, the government of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari has sponsored a vast array of election reforms this year that he has vowed will make Sunday’s elections the cleanest and fairest in Mexico’s history.

As many as 45.7 million registered voters will cast ballots under the watchful eyes of tens of thousands of independent, trained monitors--including, for the first time, several hundred foreigners and a U.N. election team.

In addition to the president, voters will elect a 500-member Chamber of Deputies, 98 senators and two state governors. The most hotly contested gubernatorial race is in the southern state of Chiapas, where a New Year’s Day uprising by Indian guerrillas has left lingering fears about the coming polls.

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