(AP) Five of the seven justices on Mexico's highest election court, the Federal Electoral Tribunal, said Thursday night they supported dismissing legal challenges mounted by the second-place leftist candidate that seek to overturn the results of the July 1 presidential election.
The court must still hold a formal vote on the case. But in discussions during the nighttime session, a majority of justices said they did not think supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had submitted convincing evidence of widespread vote-buying and campaign spending excesses by the winner of the election, Enrique Pena Nieto of the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
"Mexico has a president elected by the people, in the person of Enrique Pena Nieto," said Justice Salvador Nava.
Justice Flavio Galvan dismissed evidence submitted by the leftist coalition regarding purported abuses by Pena Nieto's campaign as "vague, generic, imprecise."
The justices said some of the evidence was hearsay, or unclear. For example, they said the evidence included gifts allegedly given out by Pena Nieto's party, the PRI, without proof that was where they came from or that the gifts had been given to influence votes.
The court appeared to have done little if any of its own investigation of the accusations, which centered on hundreds and possibly thousands of pre-paid gift cards that shoppers at a Mexican grocery store chain said they were given by Pena Nieto's party before the election.
The Associated Press interviewed about a half dozen people among shoppers who mobbed one Soriana store two days after the elections to redeem the cards; almost all said PRI supporters had given them the cards, expecting they would vote for the party.
The court did not apparently interview any card recipients. Galvan said only that "there is no proof of vote-buying."
"It has not been demonstrated that they (the cards) were given to citizens, or if that occurred, that it was done on condition they vote for a given candidate," Galvan said.
Justice Pedro Penagos agreed, saying: "Even though the existence of the Soriana cards is proven ... it has not been proven they were handed out, nor that they were in exchange for votes for Enrique Pena Nieto."
The court's ruling also came as electoral authorities are still investigating whether Pena Nieto's campaign had exceeded campaign spending limits. To outsiders, it appeared much better funded than his rivals'.
The justices said those investigations can continue, but wouldn't be grounds for overturning the vote.
The ruling by the full court, expected later Thursday, would be the final step before what is widely expected to be the tribunal's confirmation of Pena Nieto's victory.
According to the official count, Pena Nieto won 38 percent of the votes, followed by Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party at about 31 percent.
The PRI has denied wrongdoing. A confirmation of its victory would end a 12-year PRI absence from Mexico's highest office, which it held without interruption from 1929 to 2000.