The leftwing candidate in Mexico’s presidential election at the weekend raised the pressure on the country’s electoral authorities by openly claiming this month’s vote had been fraudulent.

Calling on Mexicans to initiate a wave of nationwide protests, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) told an estimated quarter of a million people in Mexico City’s main square: “If we allow them to impose themselves through fraud, it will be a regression to the past.”

In one of the most impassioned speeches he has given yet, the charismatic 52-year-old campaigner asked supporters from Mexico’s 300 electoral districts to march on the capital on Wednesday. He also called for another rally in Mexico City next Sunday.

Mr López Obrador’s accusations follow a tense vote-count last week that handed victory to Felipe Calderón of the centre-right National Action party (PAN). According to the country’s electoral authorities Mr Calderón, a 43-year-old Harvard-trained economist, beat Mr López Obrador by just 0.58 per cent. On Friday, several governments, including that of the US, sent messages of congratulations to Mr Calderón, the candidate of choice for Mexico’s business community. The country’s stock market and currency last week showed strong gains on the news.

But Mr López Obrador said he would submit evidence of foul play in the July 2 election to the electoral authorities. “This election process is not over yet,” he said. Electoral authorities have until the end of August to weigh the evidence, and have to announce their decision by September 6. Mr López Obrador also accused President Vicente Fox of Mr Calderón’s PAN of being “a traitor to democracy”. Mr Fox, who is scheduled to leave office in December, was voted into power six years ago in an election that ended more than 70 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary party.

There is a widespread perception that the vote was rigged, and all last week demonstrators outside Mr López Obrador’s campaign headquarters vowed to take their protests as far as necessary to reverse the result.

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