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Mexico’s Leftist Opposition Faces Survival Test

August 29, 1988

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico’s left-wing opposition, which shocked the longtime ruling party with its showing in the July national vote, faces a survival test as a political force in a series of state elections this fall.

″It’s possible that there will be a united front of leftist parties, but the creation of a single party is far away,″ says Raul Jardon, spokesman for the Mexican Socialist Party, one of four that joined the Democratic Front.

The Democratic Front and the rightist National Action Party are battling the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the House of Deputies, which is sitting as an electoral college to certify the election by a Thursday deadline.

The opposition parties claim the PRI won both the presidential election and many house seats by fraud.

The Democratic Front was a disparate group that joined in opposition to the PRI for the July 6 elections. Along with the Mexican Socialist Party, it includes the Authentic Mexican Revolutionary Party, the Popular Socialist Party and the Cardenist Front.

The parties support a larger government role in the economy and a moratorium on payments of Mexico’s $104 billion foreign debt, but beyond that their roots and interests differ.

The Cardenas Front was created by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, a former PRI state governor and senator, and includes many former members of the PRI, especially from the PRI’s so-called Democratic Current, which sought a party primary before the presidential election.

The Authentic Revolutionary Party was founded in 1954 by militarist members of the PRI who were dissatisfied with their marginal position in the party.

The Popular Socialist Party was founded in 1929 and advocates pushing the government gradually toward socialism.

The Mexican Socialist Party, last to join the front, includes what was once the Mexican Communist Party and has the most radical agenda. Its presidential candidate, Herberto Castillo, announced his candidacy but withdrew in favor of Cardenas, who ran as the candidate of the united left-wing opposition.

The other candidates were Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who according to official returns won with 50 percent of the vote - the first time a PRI candidate finished under 70 percent in official tabulations since the party was founded in 1929.

Cardenas took 31 percent but claims fraud robbed him of victory; National Action Party candidate Manuel J. Clouthier received 17 percent.

″The main challenge facing the Democratic Front is to form a real political party,″ said a PRI official who spoke on condition of anonymity. ″They got together for the elections, but that was tactical.″

PRI doesn’t believe the four parties can continue to work together, party officials said. They also said the opposition’s victory in Mexico City made party members realize they had to work harder.

Before the end of the year, that determination will be tested as 11 of Mexico’s 31 states have gubernatorial elections. In five states - Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon and Tabasco - the PRI’s winning margins on July 6 were thin.

The PRI has not lost a governorship since it was founded, but National Action spokesman Ricardo Garcia Cervantes said the party hoped to break that string in December in Jalisco, which the PRI won with a plurality of 42 percent in July.

″The Federal Election Commission only gave us eight of the 14 districts (out of 20) that we actually won in the state. If they’d given us all 14, you would see how strong we really are there,″ said Garcia. ″We’re going after the governorship.″

Jardon said the Democratic Front would run a single candidate for the governorship in the state of Tabasco, where Cardenas did well.

And unity is not evident in Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, where municipal elections are due Oct. 2.

About 550 candidates are registered for the elections, according to state election commission official Anastasio Reyes Marquez.

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