Vincente Fox Vows to Stay Out of Mexico Election Challenge Until Winner is Declared

President Vicente Fox won't meet with either of the two candidates who claim to have won Mexico's presidential race until the nation's top electoral court declares a victor, his spokesman said Monday.

In his first briefing since the July 2 election, Ruben Aguilar said Fox spoke with ruling-party candidate Felipe Calderon after electoral officials gave him a slight lead in the official vote tally. But he said the president would stay out of the battle for his post until a president-elect is named.

Aguilar said he was confident that the battle launched by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to overturn Calderon's lead would be peaceful. And he dismissed the idea that the country, torn between the two candidates, would come to a standstill.

"The ability to govern is absolutely guaranteed," he said.

Lopez Obrador accused Fox on Monday of helping to steal the elections, calling him a "mapache" — or "raccoon," a term used in Mexico for those who rig elections.

CountryWatch: Mexico

In what he claimed was an example of "old-style fraud," the leftist showed a video of a man in Fox's home state of Guanajuato stuffing several votes into a ballot box for a congressional race. It was not clear who the votes were marked for, but Fox's party won an overwhelming majority of votes in the election.

Lopez Obrador claimed the vote was tainted by fraud techniques like those that prevailed for seven decades under the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 until 2000, when Fox became the first opposition candidate to win the presidency.

Lopez Obrador claimed the government and the ruling party created "pregnant" ballot boxes, pre-stuffed with votes, and accused them of slipping in "tacos" of votes, a term used to refer to folded sheaths of pre-marked ballots.

He claimed such irregularities occurred "all over the country."

Fox has denied interfering in the elections, and election monitors from the European Union said they found no irregularities in the vote count.

Late Sunday, Lopez Obrador asked the nation's top electoral court to order a ballot-by-ballot recount. Just before midnight Sunday, party representatives turned over to the top electoral court nine boxes containing alleged evidence of fraud and dirty campaign practices in the election, the closest presidential race ever.

The 900-page claim alleged that some polling places had more votes than registered voters, that the ruling party funneled government money to Calderon's campaign, that spending limits were violated and that a software program was used to skew initial vote-count reports.

"We have proof that basic rules were flagrantly violated," said Ricardo Monreal, a representative for Lopez Obrador, who was not at the filing.

Mexico's Federal Electoral Court will review the case, which includes videos, campaign propaganda and electoral documents. The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

Electoral officials say Calderon defeated Lopez Obrador by fewer than 244,000 votes — or a margin of just 0.6 percent.

Also on Monday, the European Union followed several foreign governments in congratulating Calderon on his apparent win, despite Lopez Obrador's request that they wait until the court has declared a winner.

Lopez Obrador isn't seeking to annul the election, but to force authorities to conduct a manual recount of all 41 million ballots. He has refused to say whether he will abide by the electoral tribunal's ruling, and says he also plans to take the case to the country's Supreme Court.

The law allows a manual recount only for polling places where credible evidence of irregularities exist. Lopez Obrador says that applies to at least 50,000 of the approximately 130,000 polling stations.

"This was a very irregular election and we are asking that they count vote by vote to legitimize the president-elect," Gerardo Fernandez, a spokesman for Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, said Sunday. "We won't recognize Calderon's triumph unless they legitimize the election."

Legal challenges were built into Mexico's elections process in recent years to help ensure clean elections, so Calderon can't be declared president-elect until the electoral court weighs allegations of fraud or unfair campaign practices.

But allegations of fraud strike a sensitive nerve with many Mexicans because it was a constant practice for decades. Lopez Obrador has stoked those fears, calling on his supporters to hold massive demonstrations starting Wednesday.

The candidate has millions of devoted followers who believe only he can help Mexico's poor and downtrodden, and he has long used street protests to pressure the government and courts.

Also Sunday, the Federal Electoral Institute wrapped up congressional vote tallies, determining the number of seats for each party.

According to ruling National Action Party representative Jorge Zermeno, 206 seats in the 500 member lower house will go to Calderon's party, 127 seats will go to Lopez Obrador's party, and 103 seats will go to the PRI. Minor parties have the 64 remaining seats.