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Discord as Mexico votes counted

Pre-election polls on Mexico's presidential vote had projected that leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would lose by a double-digit margin.

But with 99% of the vote tallied in the preliminary count, Mr Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party trails by just six percentage points behind the election's apparent victor, Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

The narrower-than-expected margin is fuelling suspicion among Mr Lopez Obrador's followers about the fairness of the vote, and he has refused so far to concede defeat, just as he did when he lost a razor-thin race in the 2006 presidential race and set off months of political unrest. Although this time, he has not called his followers into the streets to protest.

Mr Lopez Obrador argued from the start of the campaign that pollsters were manipulating pre-election surveys to favour Mr Pena Nieto as a way to boost the idea that the PRI candidate was far out in front.

Pollsters denied that, and said on Monday that they suspected some voters changed their minds and switched to Mr Lopez Obrador in the final week before Sunday's election. Mexican electoral law bans the publication of polls just before elections, something the polling firms said prevented them from getting a last-minute snapshot of voter sentiment.

The leftist candidate also complained throughout the campaign that biased media favoured Mr Pena Nieto, particularly Mexico's semi-monopolised television industry.

"The media sponsored Pena Nieto, they manipulated, they deceived," Mr Lopez Obrador said at a news conference. "This was a really dirty election."

He said he would not accept the preliminary election results reported by the Federal Elections Institute and would wait until Wednesday, when the official results are to be announced, before deciding what he will do. "We will not accept a fraudulent result," he said.

Lopez Obrador said he probably would challenge Sunday's vote results, but did not say if he would try to repeat the nearly two months of street blockades in Mexico City that he led in 2006 to protest his close loss to President Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party that the leftist also attributed to fraud.

Hundreds of young people gathered Monday at a monument along Mexico City's main Reforma Avenue to protest Mr Pena Nieto's apparent victory, which they called the result of electoral fraud.

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