Candidates Claim Victory, But Official Results Will Have to Wait
At least when Al Gore and George W. Bush argued over who won, they did it in private, over the telephone. But tonight, in a remarkable display of political machismo, the two men who would be Mexico's next president both declared they had in fact won.
But election officials had already told this divided nation it won't have a result until Wednesday.
At 11 p.m., Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the Federal Electoral Commission, said the race between Felipe Calderón, the conservative status quo candidate, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a liberal promising to lift up the poor, was too close to call.
"The gap between the first and second place is very narrow," making it impossible to declare a winner, Ugalde said in a nationally televised address. No sooner had Ugalde sent Mexicans off to bed than López Obrador was on television declaring himself the winner.
"According to our statistics, we have won the presidency," he told supporters and reporters gathered at a downtown hotel. Throwing down the gauntlet, López Obrador said that while he respects the electoral institutions in Mexico, he wants them to respect his results. (Not quite clear how he has a count, but let's not get hung up on details at this hour.)
The "triumph is irreversible," López Obrador said, adding that he was headed to Mexico City's massive Zocalo to greet throngs of supporters who had waited for hours in the rain.
Then it was Calderón's turn to march in front of the cameras and announce he was really the victor. "According to our statistics," he said, rattling off a list of polling places, "we have been winning" from the start.
Next López Obrador showed up in the Zocalo, scene of his massive closing rally on Wednesday night.
"We will count box by box, district by district," he told his soaked supporters. "We will have all the documents to demonstrate that we won."
Does this remind anyone else of that rainy November night in 2000 when Gore told Bush, "You don't have to get snippy"?
Even President Vicente Fox got into the act, taking to the airwaves to praise the electoral commission for doing its job so well. Mexicans, he said, could have absolute confidence in the process and the eventual outcome.
Turnout, at 60 percent, was on par with the 2004 U.S. presidential contest. Throughout the evening, several Web sites kept a running tally. As returns trickled in, the margin was between 2 and 3 percentage points with Calderón slightly ahead. But it was unclear where those early returns had come from, making it impossible to judge if they tracked with national trends or favored one region of the country.
Ugalde, sweating as he read the remarkable statement, urged Mexicans to remain patient and calm. Another announcement is expected at 2 p.m. Monday, when officials hope to have 50 percent of the ballots tabulated.
It seems El Universal got it right with its 8 p.m. front page. The one word headline: Tie (PDF).
Here's the story from Monday's Washington Post: "Mexican Presidential Rivals Both Claim Win in Tight Vote."
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