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Last Updated: Friday, 24 December, 2004, 20:26 GMT
Ruling party wins in Puerto Rico
Anibal Acevedo Vila
Acevedo Vila will govern a territory of some four million people
Voters in Puerto Rico have narrowly elected a governor who opposes turning the self-governing US commonwealth into a fully-fledged federal state.

Puerto Rico declared its result nearly two months late, after the tiny margin of victory led to a recount.

Anibal Acevedo Vila of the ruling Popular Democratic Party beat Pedro Rosselo by about 0.2% of the vote.

The Rossello camp may still challenge the result in a US court, alleging irregularities at the 2 November vote.

A US district court had rejected several thousand ballot papers which appeared to have been marked more than once.

But a circuit court of appeals restored the papers to the recount last week, declaring that the Puerto Rico Supreme Court (PRSC) should decide the matter.

Most of these "split ballots" - originally accepted by the PRSC - are thought to have been cast in favour of Mr Acevedo Vila.

Appeal option

With 99.9% of the votes recounted as of Thursday, Mr Acevedo Vila led by just 3,228, taking 961,693 votes compared to 958,465 for Mr Rossello.

The remaining 2,000 ballots to be recounted would make no difference to this outcome.

"After eight weeks of confusion and anxiety, the island again witnessed who told the truth," said Mr Acevedo Vila. "The people of Puerto Rico can now celebrate this Christmas with joy."

A lawyer for Mr Rossello, who served as governor from 1993 to 2001, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying his New Progressive Party would decide this week whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Among the party's allegations of irregularities are a charge that prisoners were forced to vote for Mr Acevedo Vila.

Electoral officials have rejected the allegations.

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