July 12, 1988
MEXICO CITY Five days after the polls closed, one major candidate conceded defeat Monday in Mexico's bitter presidential race, leaving two others to fight it out.
Conservative Manuel J. Clouthier, candidate of the National Action Party, told reporters, "I cannot affirm I have the victory." He charged the vote was riddled with fraud, but said he was still uncertain about who won.
"For the life of me, I can't say which of the other contenders obtained the majority of votes," the flamboyant businessman from Sinaloa said. "It's like we have been playing with a deck of marked cards.".
Still in the running, and both claiming victory, are the government candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and the leftist, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas.
Government figures made public Monday showed Salinas to be widening his lead. As word of this spread, Mexicans took to the streets for scattered protests across the country. Presidential spokesman Manuel Alonso said the "small incidents" represented no threat to the country's security.
In returns announced just before dawn, the Federal Electoral Commission gave Salinas almost 53 percent of the vote, with 70 percent of the total vote counted. Salinas is the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has ruled Mexico for six decades.
In previous elections, no presidential candidate of the PRI, as the party is called, ever received less than 70 percent of the total. The official returns gave Cardenas 29 percent of the vote and Clouthier 16 percent. Two minor candidates split the rest.
Such partial returns have shown Salinas to be inching up steadily since Friday, when the first tally gave him 47 percent. The final results in what has become a laborious vote count are not expected for days.
Salinas's acceptance of a historically low showing has failed to quiet suspicions that the PRI and the government are stealing votes. PRI officials conceded major losses in populous Mexico City and in a few states where opposition representatives closely monitored the balloting. But the PRI has shown exceptional strength.
Late Sunday night in Jalapa, capital of the state of Veracruz, about 10,000 protesters marched to demand "respect for the vote." Elsewhere, protesters blockaded district electoral offices where ballots were being reviewed.