Mexico Institute in the News: Mexico returns former ruling party to power

Jul 02, 2012

The Associated Press, 07/02/2012

Mexico's old guard sailed back into power after a 12-year hiatus Sunday as the official preliminary vote count handed a victory to Enrique Pena Nieto, whose party was long accused of ruling the country through corruption and patronage.

The second place candidate, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, refused to concede, saying he would wait for a full count.

The Federal Electoral Institute's representative count said Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, won about 38 percent of the vote, prompting wild cheers from a party that was voted out in 2000 after 71 autocratic years in power. Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party had 31 percent and Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party had about 25 percent, according to the institute.

Pena Nieto, who sought to cast himself as the leader of a new PRI, called his victory "a fiesta of democracy."

"There is no return to the past," said the youthful, 45-year-old who is married to a soap opera star. "You have given our party a second chance and we will deliver results."

He promised a government that would be democratic, modern and open to criticism. He pledged to fight organized crime and said there would be no pacts with criminals.

"My gratitude tonight is for the millions of Mexican who voted for me," he said. "I will work for all of Mexico ... I will govern for everyone."

Despite a clear victory, more than 60 percent of voters did not support him and it was not the mandate the PRI had anticipated based on the pre-election polls.

Vazquez Mota, 51, was the first to concede, followed by New Alliance candidate Gabriel Quadri, who had only single-digit support.

At the PRI headquarters in Mexico City, a party atmosphere broke out with supporters in red dancing to norteno music.

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate. The party also appeared likely to retake at least at least one of the two houses of Congress and some governorships.

Critics say the party's 71-year rule was characterized by authoritarian and corrupt practices. But the PRI has sought to portray itself as a group that has been modernized and does not seek a return to its old ways.

Enrique Pena Nieto appears to be accomplishing what many thought would never happen again: the return of a strong and dynamic PRI," said Eric Olson of the Washington-based Mexico Institute. "The question: How will they govern?"

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