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Mexico’s Ex-Ruling Party Setback

December 30, 2000

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico (AP) _ For Mexico’s former ruling party, the most devastating year in seven decades just got worse.

The nation’s top electoral court on Friday annulled the results of elections in Mexico’s Tabasco state, ruling 4-2 that the October balloting in the oil-rich Gulf coast state was too fraught with errors to be valid. That deprived the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, of the only governorship it had won since losing control of the country in July after 71 years in charge.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s unprecedented ruling stunned the PRI, which had seen the win in Tabasco as a rebound from the July debacle, when it lost the presidency and gubernatorial votes in several states.

The PRI’s Manuel Andrade, who had been scheduled to take office on Sunday, called the decision ``absurd″ and ``a violation of the state of law″ in an interview with TV Azteca late Friday.

He declined to say if he would run in a new election in Tabasco. The state legislature will name an interim governor, who is to call a new vote within six months.

Cars with opposition party flags flapping from their windows toured the main avenues of the state capital, Villahermosa, horns blaring in celebration after the court ruling. The leftist Democratic Revolution Party’s Raul Ojeda, who had lost the election by only about 8,000 votes, wept with emotion when he learned of the decision.

``We Tabascans must never again allow a ruler to take over the state and turn elections into false and arranged competitions,″ said Ojeda, who is expected to run in the new election.

Democratic Revolution and President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party had challenged the Tabasco outcome. They accused outgoing PRI Gov. Roberto Madrazo of overseeing an election rife with bought votes and missing or burned ballots _ the kinds of tricks common in past elections controlled by the PRI.

PRI president Dulce Maria Sauri called the ruling ``absolutely unacceptable″ but said the party ``will abide by the resolution because it respects the law, even though the court has not.″

She said Tabasco law has no provision for annulling elections and that the court ruled on the basis of conjectures rather than evidence.

``Far from constructing a new democratic order in our country, there are very alarming signals because a court of law exceeds its functions and competence and that does not constitute the change for which Mexicans believed they were voting,″ she said.

The electoral court also dealt the embattled PRI blows in two other states, Yucatan and Jalisco.

In Yucatan, the court named a new seven-member board to oversee May 27 elections after ruling that the PRI-dominated legislature had violated laws in naming its own commission _ one loaded with party supporters.

PRI leaders in Yucatan vowed to defy the court, raising the possibility of an election held under two competing electoral organs.

The president of the state legislature, Myrna Hoyos Schlamme, told the government’s Notimex news agency that the court-appointed board ``does not exist and is invalid because it lacks a legal foundation.″ She said it would receive no funds.

In Jalisco, the court rejected the PRI’s challenge of a narrow National Action victory.

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