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Protesters rally for López Obrador

Full recount bid taken to Mexico's top electoral court

MEXICO CITY -- Supporters of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador protested outside Mexico's top electoral court last night, demanding a vote-by-vote recount of the July 2 presidential election.

The demonstration comes two days after the Federal Electoral Tribunal ruled that it would recount ballots at only about 9 percent of the nation's 130,000 polling places, where it said there was evidence that the vote may have been miscounted.

López Obrador said he will keep protesting until there is a recount of all 41 million ballots cast, and called his followers to the tribunal's front gates to urge the court to reverse its decision.

Carrying banners with slogans such as ``Vote by vote, poll by poll!" thousands of protesters blocked traffic on a boulevard outside the court.

``This is just the start of much stronger actions," said Jose Antonio Valles, a 52-year-old engineer at the protest.

An official count of the election gave ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón an advantage of 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes, over López Obrador.

The leftist candidate says a ballot-by-ballot recount would show he was the true winner.

``Even if I wind up alone, if I have the conviction that I am fighting for a just cause, I would continue, stubbornly," López Obrador said Sunday.

The court's seven judges are unlikely to be swayed.

They voted unanimously for a partial recount that will begin tomorrow and last no longer than five days. They have until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the race.

To press his case, López Obrador has asked his supporters to maintain a weeklong blockade of the capital's financial and cultural heart that is costing the city an estimated $23 million a day in lost commerce and causing traffic jams throughout the city.

Protesters have set up camps on main avenues and even tried to block the country's stock exchange.

Although López Obrador has urged them to remain peaceful, many are ready for confrontation.

On Sunday, waiting for López Obrador to speak, they chanted in favor of seizing Mexico City's international airport and some suggested taking over Congress, moves that would almost certainly trigger confrontations with federal authorities. Security has been increased at both sites.

López Obrador said nothing about the airport or Congress, but he promised ``new actions, new measures of civil resistance" and asked his followers ``to prepare ourselves for a struggle that may last longer."

He accused President Vicente Fox, whose historic victory in 2000 ended 71 years of one-party rule, of using the presidency to ensure his party won the election.

Calderón said Mexico's institutions were strong enough to survive attacks from ``antidemocrats," an apparent jab at the leftist protest movement.

``The solidness of our institutions has overcome the attacks of antidemocrats, anarchists, and intolerance," Calderón told a gathering of his party's lawmakers.

Representatives of López Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party and Calderón's National Action Party will observe the partial recount, examining the markings on each ballot and challenging votes where they can.

The process could potentially swing the count in López Obrador's favor. However, overcoming a 244,000-vote lead by reexamining just 9 percent of the ballots will be difficult.

``I think they might find marginal differences, at best, but I can't conceive of them finding a real mess," political analyst Oscar Aguilar said.

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