Mexico City: Enrique Pena Nieto, the new face of the party that governed Mexico for seven decades, had a commanding lead in Sunday's presidential election, according to first official results by the electoral office.

Pena Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had 38 percent of the vote against 31-32 percent for his nearest rival, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), according to the early count by the Independent Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).

Soon after the announcement Pena Nieto, 45, entered the PRI headquarters in Mexico City to a hero's welcome and claimed victory. "Presidente! Presidente!" the crowd chanted.

"In today's Mexico, plural and democratic, we all fit," he said, calling for unity and urging people to leave aside partisan politics.

"The day of voting has ended. The country now demands ... the unity of all Mexicans."

Pena Nieto personally thanked the other presidential candidates by name for what he said was their contribution to democracy. He also thanked outgoing President Alvaro Calderon by name "for his democratic vocation."

IFE president Leondardo Valdes said has that the first official results were based on returns from 7,500 polling stations and have a 0.5 percent margin of error.

"More votes were cast in this election than in any other election in Mexico's history," Valdes said.

Immediately after the announcement Lopez Obrador gave a brief speech in which he did not concede.

"We are going to wait until we have definitive results," he said. "We are not going to act in an irresponsible way. At the right time we will inform the people of Mexico."

In 2006, when Lopez Obrador ran for president and lost by less than one percent, he organised protests that paralysed Mexico City for more than a month, then swore in as the "legitimate" president and even appointed a cabinet.


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