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Mexico's Calderon calls for unity after split vote

Written by: Staff

MEXICO CITY, July 7 (Reuters) Conservative Felipe Calderon, who won the Mexican presidency by less than a percentage point, reached out to opponents in a bid to unite a nation divided by the closest presidential vote in its modern history.

Calderon, with a 0.58 percentage-point margin of victory, repeated an offer to include opposition politicians in his administration and said he would work to win the trust of people who voted against him.

''The election is behind us. It is time for unity and agreement among Mexicans,'' he told a noisy crowd of supporters at the headquarters of his ruling National Action Party yesterday.

Despite his conciliatory tone, Calderon's supporters booed when he mentioned leftist opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, seen by many among Mexico's middle and upper classes as a demagogue who threatens their livelihoods.

Calderon, a lawyer and economist with a Harvard degree, pleases Washington and Wall Street with plans to follow President Vicente Fox's free-market policies to promote job growth and economic stability. He was once energy minister under Fox.

Lopez Obrador has said the election last Sunday was plagued with irregularities and has pledged to challenge it in Mexico's electoral court.

The campaign polarized Mexico, largely along class lines, with many of the poor opting for Lopez Obrador, an anti-poverty campaigner.

The close vote also reflected deep divisions over Mexico's economic model, with many voters backing Lopez Obrador's pledge to boost subsidies and welfare and increase state involvement in the economy.

Calderon tipped his hat to his opponent, praising the leftist's social commitment. He promised his government would not forget the needs of the millions of Mexicans who live in extreme poverty, and said he would improve education, health and housing services.

Calderon was elected with 35.89 per cent of the vote, while Lopez Obrador, a combative former Mexico City mayor, trailed just behind at 35.31 per cent.

Tens of thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters are expected to take to the streets tomorrow in support of their candidate, who they feel was cheated of a victory, and to demand a vote-by-vote recount.


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