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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Mexico candidate firm over 'win'
Conservative Felipe Calderon  speaks to the press after voting
The election campaign has been intensely personal
Mexico's ruling party candidate has for the second time declared victory in the country's bitterly contested presidential election.

"I won the election... it is irreversible," conservative Felipe Calderon told Mexican television.

Near complete results gave Mr Calderon a 1% lead over leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

But election officials have said they will not call a winner until after a recount beginning on Wednesday.

Both candidates have promised to respect the outcome of the poll, the closest in Mexico's history.

'Clear victory'

Supporters of both men celebrated late into the night, convinced of having sealed victory.

MEXICO ELECTION
Felipe Calderon (left) and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
72m registered to vote
Mexicans abroad can vote for first time
President elected for 6 years
Elections also for Chamber of Deputies, Senate, 3 state governors, Mexico City mayor

As the count put Mr Calderon marginally ahead on Monday, the National Action Party (Pan) candidate reiterated his claim.

"There is an irreversible result and it is in my favour," he told the Televisa network.

"The result gives me a very clear victory that cannot be reversed."

Mr Calderon's rival insisted on Sunday he too had won, but on Monday he sounded a more conciliatory note.

"If... it turns out the final result does not favour us, I am going to abide by the result," Mr Lopez Obrador told supporters at his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) headquarters.

But he added he would "defend the will of the people if it favours us".

Alternate visions

The outcome of the vote will be watched closely throughout the Americas but is of special concern to the US, where migration from Mexico is a key issue.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - Alliance for the Good of All (PRD)
Felipe Calderon - National Action Party (PAN)
Roberto Madrazo, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
Patricia Mercado - Social Democrat and Peasant Alternative Party
Roberto Campa - New Alliance

Officials say turnout was high, after a lengthy campaign marked by political insults and accompanied by a rise in drug violence.

The leading candidates have been offering alternative visions of how to create jobs and boost the economy.

Among the 70 million people eligible to vote are thousands in the US, after a decision to allow Mexicans living abroad to vote for the first time.

In congressional elections, with 80% of polling stations reporting, the Pan was in line to win the most seats but to fall well short of gaining a majority in either house.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for 71 years, was set to fall into third place in Congress for the first time.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Mexico City says the election has been portrayed as a fight between left and right, a choice between more state intervention or the continuation of free market policies.

Mr Lopez Obrador is a former mayor of Mexico City, who has championed the poor and promised major public building programmes.

Mr Calderon is a Harvard-educated former government minister who calls for more foreign investment and greater links to the global economy.

A third candidate, the PRI's Roberto Madrazo, is said to have been trailing in the polls.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Mexicans await the results of the presidential election



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