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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Q&A: Mexico election crisis
Felipe Calderon (left) and  Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
The standoff between Mr Calderon and Mr Lopez Obrador looks set to continue
More than two months after the elections in Mexico, the conservative Felipe Calderon has been declared president-elect. But left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insists the election was rigged and does not accept the official result.

With a crisis that shows no signs of abating, we look at the background to the electoral dispute and the impact it is having.

What have Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - and his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) - alleged?

Mr Lopez Obrador and his supporters say they have evidence to prove that there was electoral fraud. Among other things they presented a video to the authorities which they said showed an unidentified man stuffing votes - presumably favouring Mr Calderon - into a ballot box. The Federal Electoral Institute - the state body in charge of organising the elections - rejected the allegations and said the images had been "misinterpreted".

The left-wing candidate has also alleged that some polling areas had more votes than registered voters and that a computer program skewed the initial count of votes.

The PRD has said outgoing President Vicente Fox's support for the Calderon campaign broke electoral law, as did a media campaign - funded by business firms - against Mr Lopez Obrador in which he was portrayed as a danger to the country and compared to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

But there was a partial recount of votes... did that not settle the dispute?

After looking at some of the challenges filed by Mr Lopez Obrador, the Federal Electoral Tribunal - the country's top electoral authority - ordered a recount of votes from 9% of the country's 130,500 polling stations, far short of the total recount demanded Mr Lopez Obrador.

The seven-strong panel which oversaw the recount annulled votes cast for a number of different parties, including Mr Calderon's and Mr Lopez Obrador's. It knocked 4,000 votes from ruling party candidate Mr Calderon's narrow lead of 244,000, but it said the irregularities were not enough to overturn the conservative's majority.

The ruling was welcomed by Mr Calderon, who said it confirmed his legitimate victory, but Mr Lopez Obrador said that it proved there had been widespread fraud. The recount, he said, had shown that hundreds of thousands votes had been illegally introduced, or removed, from ballot boxes and that thousands of tallies had been falsified. A total recount would have given a different final result, Mr Lopez Obrador said.

How much evidence is there to support the allegations of fraud?

The Federal Electoral Tribunal has ruled that the elections were legitimate and rejected the challenges presented by Mr Lopez Obrador.

However, despite declaring it a free and fair election, the tribunal said Mr Fox may have put the electoral process in jeopardy by indirectly backing Felipe Calderon in his campaign.

EU officials - who observed both the 2 July elections and the partial recount - considered the process to be "transparent and competitive" but said some aspects could be improved.

How much credibility do the electoral authorities have?

Analysts say the Federal Electoral Tribunal and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) are the backbone of Mexico's democracy. They are respected institutions although the recent crisis has sparked calls for reform, particularly of the IFE's General Council, the main directive body.

It has come under fire for not stopping violations of the electoral law in the run-up to voting day.

Some critics have also accused it of being partisan. Its nine members are elected by Congress's lower chamber, from a list put forward by the parliamentary groups. A deal between Mr Calderon's ruling National Action Party (PAN) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) meant that the PRD was excluded from the council and has no representative on it.

Is there any sign that the protest movement led by Mr Lopez Obrador may be losing steam?

Since the beginning of August, tens of thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters have been camping out in the centre of Mexico City to demand a full recount.

Now that a president-elect has been declared - and a recount or annulment of the election been rejected - the PAN is hoping that grassroots support for Mr Lopez Obrador will soon fade.

A 16 September assembly convened by Mr Lopez Obrador to determine a plan of action for civil resistance may be key to the future of his protest movement. Mr Lopez Obrador has warned this could last years and could turn into civil disobedience.

How does Mexico's democracy emerge from this?

Mexico's democracy is very young. It was ruled for 70 years by one party - the PRI. It was not until 2000 that the PRI was unseated, by the PAN's Vicente Fox, whose term ends in December.

The recent crisis has shown that Mexico is a deeply divided country and analysts say one of the main challenges for the new president will be to obtain some degree of national unity.


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