Winds of change as Mexicans vote

A SINGLE party dominated Mexico for most of the past century, and its loss 12 years ago proved to many that the country was finally a democracy. Now the nation’s voters seem ready to bring it back to power in a presidential election.
Nanjing Night Net

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, led by telegenic former Mexico state governor Enrique Pena Nieto, has held a strong lead throughout the campaign, and seems poised to retake at least a plurality in Congress, Mexico’s Parliament.

The party has been bolstered by voter fatigue with a sluggish economy and the sharp escalation of a drug war that has killed roughly 50,000 Mexicans over the past six years. The desire for change works to benefit the party known as the PRI that ran Mexico from 1929 to 2000.

After 12 years, voters appear tired of the more conservative, pro-Catholic, pro-business National Action Party, or PAN, which failed to pass the grand reforms their leaders promised to modernise the country and turn it into a kind of Brazil, the envy of Latin America.

Polls opened last night but leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose narrow loss in Mexico’s last election led to charges of voter fraud and weeks of massive protests is hoping for a shock upset. His other rival is the PAN candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party.

It would be a once-unthinkable comeback for the PRI, which many believed was doomed after its 2000 loss and which was still reeling in the last presidential election.

Mr Pena Nieto has cast himself as a pragmatic economic moderate. He has called for greater private investment in Mexico’s state-controlled oil industry, and has said he will try to reduce violence by attacking crimes that hurt ordinary citizens while de-emphasising the pursuit of drug kingpins.

All of the parties are accusing rivals of emulating the traditional PRI tactic of offering voters money, food or benefits in return for votes. Mr Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party says Mr Pena Nieto’s campaign has handed supporters money cards worth nearly $US5.2 million ($A5 million).

The 45-year-old Mr Pena Nieto, who is married to a soap opera star, has been dogged by allegations that he overspent his $330 million campaign funding limit and has received favourable coverage from Mexico’s television giant, Televisa.

AP, WASHINGTON POST

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