October 26, 2018 / 11:22 PM / 20 days ago

Mexico president-elect defends airport vote against fraud charges

MEXICO CITY, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday defended a public consultation about whether to continue the construction of a new Mexico City airport, rejecting criticism the vote was rigged.

The poll, which runs from Oct. 25 to Oct. 28, will show if voters think Lopez Obrador’s administration should finish the ambitious but costly new hub, or scrap it and upgrade a military air base to complement the current airport.

Since polling began, many observers have criticized the vote for being organized by supporters of Lopez Obrador’s own party rather than the country’s electoral institute, saying there were few guarantees for fair polling.

Several local media outlets reported cases of people who were able to vote more than once, and highlighted failures in software used to register voter identification cards.

The vote is the first trial of Lopez Obrador’s ability to carry out promised referendums, as well as a test of his economic policy and relations with the country’s business elite, who he criticized during his election campaign.

“We are not corrupt. We have never committed electoral fraud. We have moral authority,” Lopez Obrador said in a video shared on social media on Friday.

“There may be mistakes because they are not spending billions of pesos (but) it is a democratic, clean, credible process. Nobody will alter the outcome of the consultation, we guarantee that,” he added.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, won a landslide victory in July on his third attempt to win the presidency. He had alleged widespread voting fraud sabotaged his previous bids.

Lopez Obrador has criticized the multi-billion dollar new airport for cost overruns and has alleged it was tainted by corruption. During the campaign he proposed canceling construction, which has been underway since 2015.

Local airlines, business chambers and financial analysts support the current project and warn that scrapping it would send a negative signal to local and foreign investors.

Lopez Obrador said in his video that 250,000 Mexicans had voted on Thursday. However, his transition team said in a statement that 184,154 had voted that day. Around 86 million Mexicans are old enough to vote.

“It is a consultation without any guarantee of reliability,” wrote columnist Sergio Sarmiento, a frequent critic of Lopez Obrador. Journalist Georgina Morett said in her column in daily El Financiero that she voted twice without any problem. (Reporting by Diego Oré; editing by Diane Craft)

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