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Mexico’s Ruling Party Hangs Onto Power in Chiapas, But Loses Capital

October 17, 1995

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ Mexico’s ruling party led most of Chiapas’ local elections Monday but suffered an overwhelming loss in the state capital’s mayoral race after a fierce opposition campaign.

Turnout was as low as 30 percent in some areas in the second major election in the impoverished southern state since a January 1994 rebel uprising.

With 84 percent of vote for local elections counted Monday afternoon, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was leading in overall municipal vote with 47.9 percent of the vote.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, ran second with 30.3 percent and the pro-business National Action Party, or PAN, trailed at 15.4 percent

It was perhaps the narrowest victory the governing party has ever won in Chiapas, where PRI lanslides of more than 90 percent of the vote were common a few years ago.

In another sign of hard times for the PRI, the opposition PAN claimed victory in the mayoral race in the capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, winning twice as many votes as the PRI.

The erosion of the PRI’s power and tight competition among the parties in many municipalities reflects the demand for change in the state, which has been hard-hit by the uprising and Mexico’s economic crisis.

``Everyone desires a change,″ said state PAN president Armando Saldivar in Tuxtla Gutierrez.

While the ruling party probably will keep control of the state legislative assembly and most of the offices that were available in Sunday’s vote, the shrinking margin of victory indicates the PRI can no longer take its monopoly on power for granted.

Complete results are not expected until Wednesday.

The lawyers’ observer group Mexicans for Democracy said Sunday’s vote appeared to be one of the cleanest ever despite reports of scattered, minor irregularities.

Polling was reported to be peaceful throughout the state, despite earlier threats of violence. There also had been fears clashes would hamper peace talks between the government and rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which resume Wednesday.

Elections were suspended in Ocosingo, site of the bloodiest conflicts of an armed Indian uprising that involved 10 days of combat and 145 deaths in January 1994. Pro-PRD peasants had complained about the remote locations of polling places, and had threatened to burn them down.

``There will be trouble,″ resident Guadalupe Moreno Pinto said as she watched officials count ballots near the town plaza in Yajalon.

About 1.6 million people were registered to vote in the area, where rebels rose up on Jan. 1, 1994, to demand democracy and better living conditions for impoverished Indians.

The last major election was a tense contest for Chiapas’ governor in August 1994, when Mexico’s president also was elected. Ernesto Zedillo won that national contest with just over 50 percent of the ballot _ one of the PRI’s lowest margins ever in a presidential contest.

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