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Evidence election was ‘bought’ is insufficient, authorities say

July 20, 2012

Any hope Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador retained of overturning the election of Enrique Peña Nieto appeared to vanish when the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) dismissed the evidence of vote buying he presented on Wednesday.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate has accused the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of exceeding spending limits and laundering illicit campaign funds through Banco Monex.

Lopez Obrador claimed this money was then spent on pre-paid gift cards for use in Soriana stores. He alleged that the PRI gave these gift cards to voters in return for them backing Peña Nieto in the election.

But IFE President Leonardo Valdes said there was no evidence the cards had been handed out conditionally. Providing gifts for the electorate is not illegal in Mexico, as long as the party involved fully discloses its expenses and there is no stipulation that recipients must vote for the party’s candidate in return.

Moreover, IFE noted that with Peña Nieto having beaten Lopez Obrador by a margin of three million votes, a few thousand gift cards could not have decisively swung the election in his favor.

Nonetheless, in  a press conference Thursday Valdez said the prosecutor for Electoral Crimes was investigating the allegations and IFE would impose the appropriate sanctions on the PRI were the party to be found  guilty of any wrongdoing.

The PRI responded strongly to Lopez Obrador’s accusations, with a party statement declaring, “we reject as inadmissible the accusations of money laundering, which constitute a flagrant defamation.”

The ruling National Action Party (PAN) which came third in the election, has refused to join the PRD in calling for the results to be overturned. President Felipe Calderon was joined by the president-elect at his official residence, Los Pinos, on Tuesday evening, symbolizing the peaceful transition of power from the PAN to the PRI.

Lopez Obrador aside, the biggest victim of the vote-buying scandal has been the Soriana supermarket chain. Boycotted by angry voters, Soriana has seen its stock fall by 414 million dollars this month.

Soriana has denied any wrongdoing but as a result of the accusations and recent protests, its value on the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV) dropped from 5.561 billion dollars on July 1 to 5.147 billion on July 9.

The allegations against Soriana and the PRI remain under investigation by the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR).

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