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Mexican Opposition Candidate Leads

May 11, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ For the first time, a major poll released Thursday placed an opposition candidate for president ahead of the party that has governed Mexico for 71 years, although the lead was small enough to be a statistical tie.

With the July 2 election less than two months away, the survey showed Vicente Fox of the center-right National Action Party favored by 46.3 percent of those polled, while Francisco Labastida of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was favored by 41.6 percent. That would put the result within the 3.2 percentage-point margin of error.

``If these numbers hold, Mexico is headed for a major change,″ pollster John Zogby said in a news release.

His company Zogby International carried out the survey for the Reuters news agency. The survey conducted personal interviews of 1,062 likely voters between April 29 and May 7.

Trailing far behind was Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the left-center Democratic Revolution Party, who was supported by 9.3 percent.

Most Mexicans have never known a president who was not a member of the governing party, known as the PRI. It has run Mexico since its creation as a tool of the presidency in 1929, and although it has long since severed formal ties to the government, it remains the dominant political force in Mexico.

Thursday’s survey was the first report by a major polling organization to appear since a nationally televised debate between presidential candidates on April 25. Less reliable telephone surveys after that event showed many voters felt Fox won that debate.

Forty-five percent of those who answered the Zogby-Reuters poll said they had seen the debate.

Almost 15 percent of those polled _ including those who didn’t watch the debate _ said they thought Fox had won the debate, the highest figure for any of the six candidates who took part. About 8 percent said Labastida had won.

Fox had been surging even before the debate. A poll published a day before the debate in the newspaper Reforma showed Labastida only 3 percentage points ahead. That poll had a 2.5 percent margin of error.

Reforma’s next poll is not due to appear for more than a week.

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