ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The disputes continue in Mexico's presidential election. Nearly four weeks ago, conservative candidate Felipe Calderon appeared to narrowly win the election by less than six-tenths of one percent of the vote. His leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, wants a vote-by-vote recount and he's calling for nationwide protests.
Michael O'Boyle reports from Mexico City.
MICHAEL O'BOYLE reporting:
Inside Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal, court clerks receive packages of polling documents from election officials. This court is the final legal battleground in one of the most divisive elections this country has ever seen.
Outside this building, small groups of protestors have been staging demonstrations for weeks. Anebol Tenocos(ph) sells fresh fried potato chips on a corner in the northern slums of Mexico City. He believes leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was robbed of victory.
Mr. ANEBOL TENOCOS (Resident, Mexico City): (Through translator) If the court doesn't rule for a recount, the people won't stand for it. Calderon will be an illegitimate president. The people don't believe he has won.
O'BOYLE: Many may believe Lopez Obrador's claim that a conspiracy by the nation's elite is keeping him out of office, but polls show most Mexicans think Felipe Calderon fairly won.
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O'BOYLE: In Calderon's campaign headquarters, a group of supporters greet their candidate. They are convinced the vote was clean. Maria Olstos Depascero(ph) is a wealthy housewife.
Ms. MARIA OLSTOS DEPASCERO (Resident Mexico City): (Through translator) It's a shame things are all stirred up now after such a well-ordered vote. Lopez Obrador can rile up the poor people that don't understand things well. He's making them afraid and winding them up, but this will pass.
O'BOYLE: A poll released Thursday by the El Universal newspaper found 48% of Mexicans support a recount. 28% are against the idea. But it doesn't really matter what the polls say. It's in the hands of the judges now. A strict interpretation of Mexican electoral law only allows for recounts of polling stations if a party challenges them and the court finds evidence of irregularities or fraud. Lopez Obrador's party filed challenges for 40% of the stations. Calderon's party says the court can't order a full recount.
Mr. ARTURO SAROCAN(ph) (Advisor to Felipe Calderon): The Tribunal does not have that authority and does not have that mandate.
O'BOYLE: Calderon advisor Arturo Sarocan says Lopez Obrador's calls for protest are an affront to the nation's electoral process.
Mr. SAROCAN: The message would go more or less, if you don't do a recount, I will throw Mexico into chaos. And that is called political blackmail.
O'BOYLE: Following a long history of fraud, Mexico has spent the last 15 years building up the reputation of its electoral institutions. But now, Mexico's hard-won confidence hangs in the balance. The court has until the end of August to finish deliberations and must declare a winner by September 6.
(Soundbite of music)
O'BOYLE: Outside the court, Lopez Obrador's party has set up a protest camp. Senator Ricardo Herardo, from the State of Baja, California, says the government will face a big problem if the court doesn't allow for a full recount.
Senator RICARDO HERARDO (Baja): (Through translator) It is our right to demand that they clean up the election like they did in the U.S. and Florida and in other countries. Why not here?
O'BOYLE: Two weeks ago, Lopez Obrador filled the Capitol Central Plaza with hundreds of thousands of supporters. This Sunday, his party is aiming to bus in even more to hear his call for further acts of civil resistance.
For NPR News, I'm Michael O'Boyle in Mexico City.
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