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Old guard wins Mexico election recount

Mexico's electoral commission has declared centrist candidate Enrique Pena Nieto the winner of the presidential election. The announcement comes after a recount of more than half the ballots.

Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has decisively won Mexico's presidential election, after allegations of vote buying forced a recount of more than half the ballots.

The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) reported on Friday that Nieto had won 38.21 percent of the vote, while leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) came in second with 31.59 percent. Josefina Vazquez Mota of outgoing President Felipe Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN) garnered 25.41 percent of the vote.

Officials at the IFE carried out a vote-by-vote recount of results at more than half of the country's polling stations amid claims that Nieto's party had bought votes.

“It's clear that I have won these elections with a wide margin of the vote," Nieto told the news organization CNN. The PRI built up a reputation for vote-rigging during its 71-year hold on power which ended when it was beaten by PAN in 2000.

Lopez Obrador of the PRD has refused to concede, prompting fears that there might be a repeat of the 2006 presidential election, which he lost by less than one percent.

That result was followed by accusations of voting fraud and mass protests that paralyzed Mexico City for more than a month.

Gift vouchers cashed

Allegations of fraud surfaced last month, but intensified early this week as thousands of people went to redeem pre-paid gift cards worth about 100 pesos (6 euros, $7.50) on Tuesday.

Many said they had received the gift cards from supporters of the PRI before the election on Sunday.

PRI spokesman Eduardo Sanchez dismissed this as "a theatrical representation," alleging that supporters of Lopez Obrador had dressed up as PRI supporters to discredit the party.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, presidential candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party

Lopez Obrador has refused to concede defeat to the PRI

Outgoing President Calderon told the Mexican daily Milenio on Thursday that the left's challenge of the results had been "predictable."

However, before the election PAN had itself alleged that PRI was trying to buy votes, which was met with similar counter-allegations from PRI.

The official result is not due to be announced until Sunday, while the election body has until September 6 to resolve all complaints and formally declare the winner.

A "mega march" against the PRI has been planned in Mexico City on Saturday.

rc,slk/ch (AFP, AP, Reuters)