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Final ruling set in Mexico election

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico at last will have a final decision today on its disputed July 2 presidential race, with the nation's top electoral court expected to declare ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón president-elect.

But the long-awaited ruling by the Federal Electoral Tribunal -- which comes two months, three days, and tens of thousands of pages of legal challenges after voters cast their ballots -- is unlikely to end potentially explosive uncertainty or close the growing political divide gripping the country.

Most court rulings so far have favored Calderón, who has a 240,000-vote advantage over leftist rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

``We are very calm, very sure," Juan Camilo Mourino, who heads Calderón's transition team, said yesterday. ``Tomorrow, Felipe Calderón will be president-elect."

During an early-morning session today, the seven magistrates of the Federal Electoral Tribunal will give their final count in the election and decide whether it was valid. While they have the power to annul the election, nothing indicates they plan to do so. The court's decision cannot be appealed.

López Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City mayor to run for president, already has said he won't accept a ruling against him and is moving forward with plans to establish a parallel government.

``The court is going to say `The election was valid and Calderón is the president and that's the end of it,"' said political analyst Oscar Aguilar. ``But that won't turn the page. That won't end anything."

For weeks, thousands of López Obrador supporters have blocked Mexico City's stylish Reforma boulevard and set up a protest camp that has engulfed the capital's historic central plaza. They claim fraud, illicit government spending, and dirty tricks swayed the election in favor of Calderón, a member of Fox's National Action Party.

Mexican presidents are limited by the constitution to a single six-year term, and Fox leaves office Dec. 1.

Protesters say that they won't go home until López Obrador is declared president -- and that a court ruling in Calderon's favor will just fuel their fight.

Business leaders said yesterday they plan to file lawsuits against Mexico City's government and López Obrador's party, alleging they are responsible for $369 million in revenues lost due to the protests. López Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party controls the capital's government and has refused to remove the protesters, supplying them with electricity and police protection.

Calderón may appear at the court today so the judges can officially declare him a winner -- a ceremony Democratic Revolution leaders have vowed to block. The party also has pledged to keep Calderón from being sworn in before Congress on Dec. 1.

Fox's spokesman Ruben Aguilar said yesterday that ``there was no way" protesters could prohibit the presidential handover from taking place. He said the federal government had ways to ensure the president-elect takes office, but refused to elaborate.

``We will reserve them until the appropriate time, but there are ways to ensure that the letter of our laws and our constitution are followed and there will be a handover of power to the president-elect without a doubt," he said.

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