A final vote count Friday confirmed Enrique Pena Nieto's decisive win to become the new Mexican president, but the handsome politico must still overcome legal challenges.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who came in second and lost by 6.62 percent to Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said he will legally challenge the results, claiming the winner "bought" votes, enjoyed overwhelmingly positive media coverage and broke campaign spending limits.
Lopez Obrador lost the last presidential election in 2006 by less than one percent, claimed fraud and held protests that virtually paralyzed Mexico City for more than a month. He has not called for protest marches this year.
The official results were announced after a painstaking vote-by-vote recount of results at a little more than half of the country's 143,144 polling stations that dragged on far longer than expected.
The youthful Pena Nieto, 45, an ex-governor of populous State of Mexico, is married to glamorous soap opera star Angelica Rivera and benefited from family connections with powerful old guard PRI politicos, as well as a savvy media team that carefully stage-managed his appearances.
Octavio Aguilar, a senior Vazquez Mota campaign official, estimated that the PRI spent up to $500 million getting Pena Nieto elected, shattering the legal campaign spending limit of $30 million.
"That's is the problem with this democracy -- the one who has the most money buys the election," Aguilar told AFP.
The fraud is not in the ballot box, but in the river of cash the PRI used to pay for everything from gift cards to campaign paraphernalia and favorable TV coverage.
The charges, backed up by documents published by Mexican and foreign media, focus on Mexico's TV network giant Televisa. "But they were not the only ones," Aguilar claimed.
Televisa earlier rejected claims that it was paid for positive Pena Nieto coverage, and the PRI is on record insisting it ran a clean campaign.
The PRI was synonymous with the Mexican state as it governed for 71 years until 2000 using a mixture of patronage, repression, rigged elections and bribery.
By law, the parties have until July 12 to challenge the results.
Calderon said election officials must investigate the overspending charges.
"As president and as a citizen, I do believe the electoral authorities are obliged to give us an answer on this," Calderon told the Excelsior daily.
"If this is not properly investigated, there will be reason to at least refuse to accept (the results) or at least protest," he said.
Lopez Obrador reiterated Thursday his claim that the PRI sought to "buy" votes by distributing 1.8 million gift cards worth "billions of pesos."
"All of this is documented," Lopez Obrador said, adding that his leftist coalition filed complaints with election officials as early as February. He pointed to "millions of bought votes."
Pena Nieto, who declared victory late Sunday, inherits a country beset by a brutal drug war and an economy struggling to create jobs.
Mexico's putative next president moved quickly to try to allay fears that the corrupt practices of the once authoritarian PRI could return.
"Anything can be said" about vote buying, "but one has to present proof," Pena Nieto told the Spanish daily El Pais. Since his victory, he has spoken mainly to foreign media.
Pena Nieto said his campaign had nothing to do with the gift cards, and reiterated that it was a clean election.
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have already congratulated Pena Nieto on his apparent victory.
An anti-PRI "mega march" has been announced for Saturday in Mexico City via online forums and flyers handed out in the street, but it was unclear who is organizing it.
Source: AFP Global Edition