Mexico Awaits Outcome of Tight Presidential Vote

Results of the Mexican presidential election are officially too close to call, but leftist Andres Manual Lopez Obrador and conservative Felipe Calderon have both declared victory. Election observer George Grayson sets the scene in Mexico City for Madeleine Brand.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

There is a Mexican standoff. Both candidates in yesterday's presidential election in Mexico are declaring victory. The results, though, are too close to call and will not be known for days. A painstaking hand count of tens of millions of ballots won't begin until Wednesday.

I'm joined from Mexico City by George Grayson. He specializes in Latin American politics at the College of William and Mary. And welcome to DAY TO DAY. I understand you're quite sleepy from staying up all night watching this nail-biter.

Professor GEORGE GRAYSON (College of William and Mary): Well, it's been a terrifically interesting night. But if I fall asleep and the microphone hits the floor, just cut me off.

BRAND: Okay. The two candidates are leftist Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, and conservative Felipe Calderon, two very different candidates. They fought bitterly. And what is the reaction there?

Prof. GRAYSON: People are exhausted. Many went to political meetings last night. There was a huge rally in the central square of Mexico, known as the Zocalo, presided over by Andres Manual Lopez Obrador. And Felipe Calderon had a big shindig at the PAN headquarters.

BRAND: Now, Mexico is no stranger to election fraud. Was this a clean election, from what you could tell?

Prof. GRAYSON: Well, there are always lots of irregularities in any election. For example, I went to at least five voting booths, yesterday, where they simply ran out of ballots. That was just bureaucratic incompetence.

But I'm sure that we're going to hear, especially from the loser, that there were many problems with the election. But an irregularity can be if a candidate's sign is within 40 feet of a polling place. And there are going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of those compiled and presented to the electoral authorities.

BRAND: Are you concerned that, as we are waiting for this recount, this hand count to take place - which will take days - are you concerned that, during this period of politically instability, there could be some violence?

Prof. GRAYSON: I think that we wouldn't see any turmoil here, until the winner is announced. There are two institutions, the Federal Electoral Institute and it presides over the election. It does the vote counting. But there's also a group to which you can appeal, and that's the Electoral Tribunal.

And that tribunal doesn't have to render its decision until September 6. And so I think authorities here will draw out the announcement of a winner, especially if it's Felipe Calderon.

BRAND: Why do you say, especially if it's Felipe Calderon?

Prof. GRAYSON: Well, Felipe Calderon, he's associated with the neo-liberal market-oriented policies of Vicente Fox. And I believe he would accept the outcome of the electoral authorities.

In contrast, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador has an almost messianic belief that he's been called to uplift the masses. He's never lost an election in which there wasn't post-election demonstrations. At the same time, they can't wait too long, or you would have an extremely negative impact on the Mexican economy. But it's probably going to be later this week that a winner is announced.

BRAND: George Grayson is a professor of government at the College of William and Mary, and he joined us from Mexico City.

Thank you very much.

Prof. GRAYSON: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be with you.

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