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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Colossal Fraud' Charged in Mexican Elections

MEXICO CITY -- While Ernesto Zedillo celebrated his victory as Mexico's president-elect, a top challenger accused the new leader's party of "colossal fraud" in the election.


Zedillo, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, insisted Monday that Mexico passed the test of democracy in Sunday's balloting and called his supporters to a victory party in the parking lot of PRI headquarters Monday evening.


But Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who maintains that the ruling party known as the PRI robbed him of a presidential victory in 1988, immediately accused Zedillo and his party of wrongdoing.


"A colossal fraud has been committed," Cardenas said.


He summoned some 20,000 protesters to Mexico City's vast central square Monday, where they chanted slogans against Zedillo's victory in Mexico's most closely watched election.


Despite Cardenas' calls for peaceful protest, his supporters chanted: "If there is no solution, there will be a revolution!"


The wide margin of Zedillo's victory was likely to weaken accusations of vote fraud. With more than 45 percent of the ballots counted, Zedillo had 48 percent of the vote, the Federal Electoral Institute said.


Diego Fernandez de Cevallos of the center-right National Action Party was in second place with 30 percent, followed by Cardenas, leader of the Democratic Revolution Party with about 16 percent.


The election was also declared largely fair by 82,000 domestic and foreign election observers but that failed to satisfy the opposition.


"The struggle, my comrades, is simply beginning. We will not have six more years of intimidation!" Cardenas shouted to protesters thronging the capital's main square. He called for protests nationwide.


The protesters unfurled white flags emblazoned with red fists and chanted, "Democracy now!"


No violence was reported, and there was no visible police presence at the rally.


"The vote was manipulated," declared demonstrator Rebecca Parilla, 50. "We don't think Zedillo won. That's why we are here. We want peace. We want change. But this election was a tragedy."


But Adolfo Queseda, a businessman passing by the square, scoffed that the protesters "don't represent most Mexicans."


Fernandez, a former congressman, protested the results but appealed to his largely middle-class followers to abstain from violence, saying he would protest through legal channels.


Meanwhile, opposition leaders in the restive southern state of Chiapas have said they will set up a rival local government if official results confirm a win for the ruling party in the state.


Elections in Chiapas, a poor region in which the government fought armed rebels earlier this year, coincided with Sunday's national vote for president and the legislature.


Preliminary results in Chiapas gave a wide lead to Eduardo Robledo Rincon, the Institutional Revolutionary Party's candidate for governor. With 45 percent of precincts counted, Robledo was leading with 49.1 percent of the vote to 31.5 percent for Amado Avendano Figuera of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.


But if the official results do not give him victory, Avendano will call a popular assembly to replace the state Congress, write a new state constitution and call new elections, his wife and party leaders said.


On Sunday, the PRD will launch demonstrations and other acts of civil disobedience through Dec. 8, the day the governor-elect takes office, Avendano's wife Concepcion Villafuerte said.


Avendano, 60, was unable to campaign after being hurt a traffic crash last month, and Villafuerte took over for him.


Avendano has aligned himself with the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army and its demands for democracy, justice and improved social services, especially for the state's impoverished Indian peasants, party leaders said.