Exit polls suggest Mexico’s PRI will lose one of its last remaining strongholds
MERIDA, Mexico (AP) – In a vote likely to decide the future of Mexico’s former ruling party, exit polls Sunday indicated a severe defeat for the Institutional Revolutionary Party in gubernatorial elections in southern Yucatan state, one of the party’s last remaining strongholds.
Patricio Patron, a 43-year-old businessman and member of President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party apparently unseated the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s best-oiled and most experienced political machine.
According to an exit poll carried out for the Televisa news network, Patron got 56.4 percent of the vote, compared to 42.4 percent for Orlando Paredes, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, also called PRI. Minor parties got 1.2 percent.
Other exit polls showed similar results, but official vote tallies were not immediately available.
”We view this as a triumph for democracy,” said Amalia Garcia, national leader of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, which also supported Patron’s candidacy.
The results, if confirmed, would mark yet another electoral setback for the PRI since July, when it lost the presidency for the first time in 71 years. Fox was the first opposition candidate ever to win the post.
Insiders believe the PRI, which was one of the longest-ruling parties in the world, could lose an increasing number of members, change its name or become paralyzed by infighting after election setbacks in southern states like Yucatan, Chiapas and Tabasco.
The PRI had tried by any means to hold on to its traditional power base in poor southern states like Yucatan. The party had spent months fighting a federally appointed election board, independent observers and a quick vote count – all of which were designed to reduce fraud in a state long known for it.
Paredes, the PRI candidate, claimed his surveys showed him winning the vote, and accused the federal government – which sent special election prosecutors to help watch the vote – of interfering in the state’s affairs.
Many polling places opened a bit late amid persistent rain, but there were no reports of serious irregularities, as in past elections.
Paredes, a 59-year-old lawyer, has largely run for the governorship based on the appeal of current Gov. Victor Cervera, who is retiring after more than a decade as the head of the state.
Yucatan is a largely Mayan Indian state, home to ancient ruins like those at Chichen Itza. But it shares little of the wealth of nearby tourist resorts like Cancun.
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