No return to past, vows Mexico's new leader

Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 01:00

THE PARTY that governed Mexico for 71 years, until its reputation for coercion, corruption, economic mismanagement and vote-rigging finally forced it out of power in 2000, has claimed an emphatic election victory behind its charismatic candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Early official results gave the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 38 per cent of the vote and a seven-point lead in a count of a sample of polling stations. Opinion polls had predicted a 10-15 point lead for the PRI.

“Mexicans have given our party a second chance,” Mr Pena Nieto told chanting supporters after President Felipe Calderón phoned to congratulate him. “We will honour it with results and with a new form of governing that responds to the demands of Mexico in the 21st century.”

Mr Pena Nieto, the former governor of Mexico’s most populous state, the State of Mexico, promised there would be “no return to the past”. He vowed to alleviate the poverty affecting about half the population with a “renewed free market with social sensitivity”, and countered charges that the PRI is likely to seek deals with the drug cartels.

Mr Pena Nieto also reached out to the student movement, which rejected him as a superficial makeover of the old regime constructed by the broadcasting giant Televisa.

“I share your desires and I understand your complaints,” the candidate said. “I also want a new country, a successful country that recognises the potential and the talent of every Mexican.”

But the students were unconvinced. One group, which calls itself “I Am 132” in reference to an early protest in May, released a video showing several rows of glum-looking young people who said they “energetically reject the imposition of a candidate”.

The students reiterated allegations that Mr Pena Nieto had benefited unfairly from favourable mass media. They also said the election had been plagued by irregularities and episodes of violence that meant polling day “did not take place in the atmosphere of peace and legality that is necessary to ensure a free and reasoned vote”.

They said web pages they had set up to collate reports of irregularities were systematically hacked during the day. The 500-odd complaints they did manage to collect included many cases of vote-buying.

The electoral authorities, backed by most of the media and many observers, described the election as “exemplary”, however.

Mr Pena Nieto’s closest rival, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of Democratic Revolution or PRD, told his supporters he would not respond to the results until tomorrow, when allinformation from polling stations is due to have been processed.

The governing Party of National Action (PAN) candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, accepted defeat even before the announcement of the quick count.

A sense that Mexico has lost its way since the PAN took over contributed to support for Mr Pena Nieto among voters such as Cristian Marquez, who said, “The PRI has learned from the mistakes it made towards the end , and it is still the only party that knows how to govern.” – (Guardian service)