Enrique Pena Nieto decisively won Mexico’s presidential election, the electoral office said Friday, issuing final vote results following a demand for a recount by his closest rival.
Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had contested the provisional tally, scored 31.59 percent of the vote, against 38.21 percent for Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, according to final results on the website of the independent Federal Electoral Institute.
IFE also gave Josefina Vazquez Mota, of outgoing President Felipe Calderon’s ruling National Action Party, or PAN, 25.41 percent of the vote.
The 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. It began Wednesday and concluded early Friday, a day late.
IFE chief executive Benito Nacif told Formato 21 radio that the delay was due to “large numbers of opened ballots,” and, in some cases, protracted discussions between election officials over some of the votes in doubt.
Lopez Obrador, who steadfastly claimed that a massive vote-buying scheme had been used, had demanded a full recount.
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate held an evening press conference Thursday reiterating his claim that the PRI sought to “buy” votes by distributing 1.8 million gift cards worth “billions of pesos.”
He did not, however, call for mass protests in the same way as he did in 2006, when he lost by less than one percent, claimed fraud and organized demonstrations that paralyzed Mexico City for over a month.
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.
“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’s PRI was synonymous with the Mexican state as it governed for seven decades until 2000 using a mixture of patronage, repression, rigged elections and bribery.
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.
PAN also filed a complaint over alleged PRI bank cash cards before the vote. The PRI in turn filed complaints against both its rivals alleging gifts to voters.
Vazquez Mota, the ruling party candidate, on Thursday told reporters that campaign expenses should be scrutinized “with a magnifying glass” — an indirect swipe at the PRI. “We cannot let the illegal use of resources go unpunished,” she said.
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 make a comeback.
“We are a new generation. We are not returning to the past. My government has its sights set on the future,” he told foreign reporters on Monday.
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have already congratulated Pena Nieto on his apparent victory.