Mexico’s PRI wins governor’s races


Mexico’s former ruling party defied predictions of its demise and showed promise as a revitalized contender on the left, as vote tallies Monday showed it winning the governorship of the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

Preliminary results from Sunday’s elections suggested the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, may survive in some strongholds in southern Mexico, after it lost the presidency for the first time in seven decades and was defeated in several state races last year.

The victory, the PRI’s first since its defeat at the hands of President Vicente Fox on July 2, 2000, dealt a strong blow to Mexico’s leftist Democratic Revolution Party. It also may herald a shift to a more populist stance for the PRI, locked for two decades in conservative, market-oriented policies.

“This victory contributes a lot to helping reposition our party,” said Manuel Andrade, the winning PRI candidate. “I hope it contributes to a shift in the PRI.”

With all votes from Sunday’s election counted, Andrade had 50.5 percent, while Raul Ojeda of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party had 46 percent. Authorities will formally declare the winner Aug. 12.

Andrade’s apparent win strengthened the political fortunes of Tabasco’s former governor, Roberto Madrazo, who is seeking to lead the battered PRI on a national level back to its old-time politics of handout programs, patronage and street demonstrations.

Tabasco — a rural state mired in patronage and poverty despite its oil and rich natural resources — has long been a good laboratory for the PRI’s machine-style politics. But the PRI also did well in Sunday’s state assembly race in another southern state, Oaxaca.

“The results indicate that a very important sector of the population has recovered its confidence in the PRI,” said the party’s national leader, Dulce Maria Sauri.

The elections did not mark a setback for Fox, whose National Action Party, or PAN, has long been a minor force in Tabasco and got about 2 percent of the vote. The PAN successfully defended key mayorship posts in another Sunday election in the northern state of Aguascalientes.

The PRI victory was more of a blow to the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, which may now find itself battling a more populist PRI for control of the nation’s left.

It also dealt a blow to the PRD’s rising star, Mexico City Mayor and Tabasco native Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in his plans to build a coalition of leftist governors to oppose Fox’s conservative policies.

PRD candidate Ojeda refused to concede defeat in the Tabasco race. Ojeda said the PRI used “the same old irregularities” to win Sunday’s vote, and he promised to contest the results in court.

But federal electoral authorities overturned an Andrade victory once before — Sunday was a special election called after judges ruled an October vote was plagued by fraud — and they are unlikely to overturn the results a second time.

Andrade, a 35-year-old lawyer, had described the election as the PRI’s chance to battle its reputation for using ballot stuffing and bribes by winning cleanly.

But “objectively, the clear winner of yesterday’s elections is Roberto Madrazo,” columnist Pablo Hiriart wrote in the newspaper Cronica. “This marks the start of the PRI’s recovery under Roberto Madrazo.”