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Presidential election 'deja vu' in Mexico? (+video)

In 2006, presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declared election fraud. Today, the electoral committee is once again in the thick of a recount at his party's request.

By Sara Miller LlanaStaff writer / July 5, 2012

An electoral worker recounts votes at a district office of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in Mexico City on July 4. Mexico's election officials on Wednesday recounted votes from more than half the polling places from Sunday's presidential election after the leftist runner-up alleged fraud and asked for a recount.

Henry Romero/Reuters

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Mexico City

Four days after a presidential election – in which, by a margin of 6 percent, voters chose Enrique Peña Nieto of the once all-powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)  – Mexico's electoral authorities are in the thick of a recount.

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Protestors outside Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute are demanding a recount of Sunday's presidential election vote after reports of voting irregularities.

Election officials must recount votes at half the polling stations, as required by law if there are irregularities such as tally inconsistencies. They have said the final results for president should be clear later today and for Congress by Sunday.

Mexico is holding its breath for what lies next. The electoral institute said it doesn't expect the results to alter the victory. But it is not certain the candidate demanding the recount is going to accept the final word. Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who came in second in the election and has not yet conceded defeat, refused to accept electoral results last time he was candidate in 2006. This time his margin of loss is far greater, and ultimately a refusal to recognize the vote could hurt the left more than anything else.

Mr. Lopez Obrador has alleged the election was an overall fraud, including unfair media attention given to the victor and allegations of widespread vote-buying by the PRI. For some, this feels like a political story on repeat: Lopez Obrador is the same man who, finding himself in second position by half a percentage point after the 2006 presidential race, also demanded a full recount. When that wish was not granted in 2006, he declared fraud and led a disruptive protest in downtown Mexico City. He never recognized the presidency of Mexico's leader Felipe Calderon.

The reaction of the nation to his refusal to concede defeat this time around – even after President Calderon and heads of state from around the globe congratulated Mr. Peña Nieto – is divided. Opinion pages are full of differing commentary. On the one hand, many accept a recount and are dismayed that allegations of vote-buying have marred the entire election process. YouTube videos condemning allegations of irregularities, such as voters being bussed into neighboring states, have spread across social media. This reaction speaks to lingering suspicions that the PRI in power means a return to the time when they held a singular grip on Mexican politics.

The PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, relied on vote-rigging and vote buying to hold onto power for more than 70 years. Now, they are facing criticism today for receiving biased media coverage and accused of handing out gift cards for a major supermarket chain in Mexico City in return for votes. The PRI has denied this.

The civil society group Civic Alliance says that the practice of vote-buying has increased since the group began monitoring the practice in 1994, according to a report they released on the race.

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