Mexico's Zedillo wins less than 50 percent in final vote count

RULING party candidate Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon won Mexico's Aug. 21 presidential election with 48.87 percent of the vote, results released by election officials showed Saturday.

The results, based on 291 of the country's 300 electoral districts, contradicted preliminary counts by election authorities that gave Mr. Zedillo, the candidate of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), more than 50 percent of the vote.

``These are not preliminary results, they are the definitive final results,'' a spokesman for the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the country's top election authority, told Reuters.

Zedillo was thus set to become Mexico's first president in 65 years to come to power with less than 50 percent of the vote.

The results put Diego Fernandez de Cevallos of the conservative National Action Party in second with 26.09 percent.

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano, the candidate of the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), claims the elections were marred by massive fraud. Mr. Cardenas, who claims that massive electoral fraud kept him from winning Mexico's 1988 elections, finished third with 16.42 percent of the vote.

Some 50,000 Mexicans massed in Mexico City's central Zocalo Square Saturday in a show of support for Cardenas, who called on his supporters to eschew violence and concentrate on legal challenges to the election results. He proposed the establishment of ``Truth Commissions'' across the country to document fraud.

The elections opened the door for the strife-torn southern state of Chiapas, where Mayans launched a New Year's Day rebellion, to enter the nation's political mainstream and avoid future bloodshed, political analysts say. Most election observers agreed last week's vote was the first democratic election ever held in Chiapas, where the self-styled Zapatista Army for National Liberation took up arms to demand democracy and economic aid.

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