Mexico’s old guard is apparently poised to reclaim the country’s presidency.
According to Mexico’s electoral board, the IFE, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI leads the race for the presidency. With 84.27% of the votes counted, the center-right Peña Nieto is first with 37.55% of the vote, 5.31% ahead of the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Update (12:15): Peña Nieto has widened his lead to over 6% with nearly 93% of the vote counted, which explains why he's received congratulatory messages from several countries including Britain and Spain.
The former State of Mexico governor claimed that he won the election after a "quick count" conducted by the IFE gave him a 6-8% lead over López Obrador.
“Mexicans have given our party another chance. We are going to honor it with results,” said Peña Nieto to his followers while a senior IFE official claimed that Peña Nieto’s electoral advantage is “irreversible.”
If the numbers do hold then it would represent a return to the presidency for the PRI, the party which ruled Mexico for seventy-one years until 2000 when PAN candidate Vicente Fox ended the hegemony.
“The last word hasn't been spoken yet…We simply do not have all the facts,” said López Obrador, who claimed that he would not quit until all the votes are counted.
It is unknown if López Obrador’s backers plan to repeat the actions of six years ago when he launched massive street protests after controversially losing the presidential race by less than 1% to current president Felipe Calderon.
The ruling PAN will be forced to the presidential sidelines after a disappointing showing by ex-minister Josefina Vazquez Mota.
“The new government ... will have the great responsibility to fulfill its promises and commitments,” said the first woman presidential candidate for a major party who conceded after exit polls placed her in a distant third place.
What can explain Peña Nieto’s advantage and possible victory? “The country's economic failure is a main reason for the likely loss of the ruling PAN party,” according to a report released last week by Center for Economic and Policy Research. Peña Nieto’s message of meaningful economic reform including job creation, restarting growth and increased privatization of PEMEX appeared to resonate with voters.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that most Mexicans back Calderon’s crackdown against drug traffickers. Nevertheless, Peña Nieto appeared to have seized on voters’ dissatisfaction with the high costs of Calderon’s offensive including more than 55,000 people killed in drug-related violence since 2006.
Lastly, Peña Nieto represented a PRI that had not disappeared from Mexican politics despite being out of the presidency since 2000. With the party’s machinery still in place (and with possible complicity from the media), the youthful Peña Nieto was able to convince the electorate that he represented a “new PRI.”
According to Reuters:
"There is a new PRI ... It's the others who have not changed. They are living in the past," he said. "But the PRI never left. It has lost and won, competed democratically and understood change"…Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English
"We have a candidate with new ideas," said Domingo Santiago, 67, a retired maintenance worker who latched on to Pena Nieto's promises to help the elderly. "I'm not saying there weren't abuses before, but he is seeking reform, something better for the people, without going back to the old days."
Online Sources (including Update)– The Guardian, Fox News Latino, IFE, MSNBC, BBC News, ABC News, Reuters, Milenio