Mexico elections end seven decades of PRI rule

By Daniel Vila, in People's Weekly World,
12 July, 1997

Riding a wave of anti-government sentiment and pledging to fight President Ernesto Zedillo's austerity economic policies, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), easily defeated his rivals in the first elections held for mayor of Mexico City since 1928.

"We have won the city. Let's get set for the year 2000!" were Cardenas' words, referring to the next presidential elections. He defeated the candidate of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) by a 2-1 margin in the July 6 elections. With more than 80 percent of the vote counted Cardenas had 47.7 percent, the PRI had 25.5 percent, the conservative National Action Party (PAN) came in third and the Green Party had seven percent.

In other results, the Mexican electorate punished the PRI by voting for the opposition in elections for the 500 member Chamber of Deputies, or lower House of Congress. With this victory the opposition brings to an end 68 years of the PRI's control of Congress. With 84 percent of the ballots counted, the PRI had 38.1 percent, the PAN had 27.4 percent and the PRD had 25.9 percent. The rest of the vote was split among five other parties. A party needs 42 percent to win a majority. Then 300 are directly elected and 200 are allotted proportionally.

It is the first time that the ruling PRI loses its control of the Congress. Zedillo will, therefore, become the first Mexican president since 1913 to face an opposition legislature. Previous to this election, the position of mayor was appointed by the president.

Just several months ago Cardenas was considered a political corpse. It is generally accepted he "lost" the 1988 presidential race as a result of fraud and he was roundly defeated in 1994. But the deterioration of the PRI as a result of almost weekly corruption scandals and unpopular economic policies facilitated Cardenas' victory. He is the son of the much beloved and populist former president of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas who was in office from 1934 to 1940. Cardenas nationalized the banking, transport and petroleum industries.

In races for governor the PAN won the post in the industrial state of Nuevo Leon and in the state of Queretaro where some of Mexico's biggest companies are located. The PRD charged fraud in the state of Campeche where the PRI was said to be winning. PRD candidate, Layda Sansores charged that her party had discovered thousands of burned and defaced ballots.

The PRD campaigned on a program which calls for a greater role for government in the economy, against unemployment, against corruption and caution regarding closer ties with the United States. On the other hand the PAN has a strong Catholic influence, opposes a role for the state in the economy and prefers closer ties with the United States.

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