TOO close to call is a phrase often used about the outcome of an election but it can seldom have been more accurate than in respect of last Sunday's presidential election in Mexico. After four days of agonising uncertainty the Federal Election Institute announced that the rightist Felipe Calderon had won with a 35.88 per cent share of the vote over his centre-left opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who had 35.31 per cent. Under Mexican law the result can be legally challenged and Sr Obrador has lost no time in doing this; he wants a ballot-by-ballot recount of the 41 million votes cast. It may be September before the result is finally determined. Those who complain about the paralysis caused in Mexican public life by this virtual dead-heat should recall that until constitutional reforms were effected there six years ago every single election for seventy years had been taken by the extreme right-wing Institutional Revolutionary Party. We appear to be an age of 50-50 elections, ushered in by the US 2000 presidential election which took 45 days and the intervention of the Supreme Court to settle. Last year in Germany the result was so close that it took Gerhard Schroder two months to accept that Angela Merkel had bettered him. Earlier this year, the Italian voters were evenly divided between Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi, and there is currently a deadlock in the Czech Republic following elections. What price a hung parliament in Britain next time round?
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