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Mexico Court Dismisses Challenge to Pena Nieto Election Win

Mexico’s highest electoral authority dismissed a court action that sought to void the results of the July 1 presidential vote, clearing the way for Enrique Pena Nieto to be ratified as president.

The electoral tribunal rejected runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s demand to invalidate the results based on allegations Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, bought votes with gift cards and used campaign funds from illegal sources. The tribunal’s seven justices all voted to dismiss the challenge.

“It can be concluded that the free vote wasn’t affected,” Maria del Carmen Alanis Figueroa, one of the justices, said in Mexico City late yesterday. Lopez Obrador’s coalition failed to present “objective” proof of vote buying and coercion, she said.

Lopez Obrador said today that he doesn’t accept the tribunal’s decision and called on his supporters to rally on Sept. 9 in the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square.

“We will continue defending the individual and societal rights of all citizens,” Lopez Obrador told a press conference in the capital. “We will continue to act with responsibility and in a peaceful manner so we don’t give those who are violent themselves a motive to accuse us of violence.”

Back in Power

Pena Nieto, who won the election by about 3.3 million votes, will return the PRI to power after a 12-year hiatus from more than seven decades of uninterrupted rule. While under Mexican electoral law offers of cash and gifts are illegal when a party asks for a vote in return, such practices aren’t listed in the constitution as a valid reason for voiding an election.

The electoral tribunal will reconvene at 12 p.m. in Mexico City today and may formally name the president, according to an e-mailed statement.

Hundreds of protesters confronted police and broke through a barricade outside the courthouse yesterday as the judges made their arguments. Thousands have marched in the streets against the results in the weeks leading up to the decision, and students are planning more protests today.

By focusing on whether Lopez Obrador presented enough evidence to overturn the election’s result rather than the question of the vote’s fairness, the tribunal took a strict view of its mandate, said Arturo Franco, resident fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

‘Procedural’ Review

“The way they dealt with this matter was in many ways not satisfying the role of the court,” Franco said in a phone interview. “They went for a more procedural kind of resolution instead of looking at the real questions of was the election free, was the election authentic.”

Lopez Obrador’s supporters may seize on the limited ruling as fuel for their protests, although the demonstrations won’t be as pervasive as six years ago, Franco said. Lopez Obrador’s backers occupied the capital’s main business avenue for weeks with encampments in 2006 to protest his loss to President Felipe Calderon by less than a percentage point.

Calderon’s National Action Party joined Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, in alleging the PRI bought votes and exceeded campaign financing limits. The PRI has denied any wrongdoing.

Pena Nieto, who is scheduled to take office Dec. 1, has pledged to overhaul the economy, including plans to open the state-owned oil monopoly to more private participation.

A recount last month of more than half of ballots cast confirmed that Pena Nieto won the election with 38.2 percent of the votes against 31.6 percent for Lopez Obrador.

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