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In Official Count, Peña Nieto Remains Ahead of Challengers

Election officials in Mexico are moving forward with the official count of the ballots cast in Sunday’s presidential election. Early results indicate that Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or the PRI, remains ahead of his challengers.

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Under a cloud of controversy, Mexican election officials are moving forward with the official count of the ballots cast in Sunday’s presidential election.

Hours after polls closed on Sunday, initial results — called the conteo rápido — reflected that front-runner and candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or the PRI, Enrique Peña Nieto, had garnered roughly 38 percent of the ballots cast. Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist progressive alliance, made up of the Party of the Democratic Revolution and the Labor Party, received about 31 percent and Josefina Vázquez Mota, of current president Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party, or PAN, received between 25 and 26 percent. Initial results, according to the country’s elections institute, showed that more than 63 percent of the 79.4 million eligible voters cast ballots on Sunday, the highest turnout in the country’s history.

The conteo rápido is based on a combination of information obtained through exit polls and sampling data, and is a precursor to the official count, which began early Wednesday. As of Thursday afternoon, about 91 percent of the ballots had been counted, showing Peña Nieto maintaining his 7-point lead over López Obrador, with 38.4 percent of the vote to the leftist’s 31.4 percent. Vázquez Mota was a distant third with about 25.4 percent, according to CNN México.

Thursday’s count, however, won’t put an end to the controversy surrounding Sunday’s historic election. López Obrador, who narrowly lost to Calderón in 2006, has demanded a full recount after alleging the PRI, a party associated with vote-buying and corruption during its 71-year rule last century, coerced or bribed Mexicans across the country to support the apparent winner. Despite the request, officials with the Instituto Federal Electoral stated that votes cast at 54 percent of polling stations would be reviewed during the official count. Federal law requires the process be concluded by Sunday.

The election was only the second time in Mexico’s history that its citizens living abroad were allowed to mail in ballots, and officials launched a months-long campaign to increase turnout from 2006. That year, 53,000 people applied for placement on Mexico's foreign voters list and 41,000 were approved. That resulted in 33,100 mail-in ballots. Sunday, however, 40,737 overseas ballots were received from 91 countries. The overseas results differed significantly from the overall vote, with Vázquez Mota garnering about 17,200 votes, López Obrador about 15,900 and Peña Nieto fewer than 6,400.

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