Opposition Ahead in Key Mayoral Races
MORELIA, Mexico (AP) _ Mexico’s ruling party was leading Monday in vote counting for six state elections, but discontent with widespread economic hardship helped the opposition edge ahead in four big mayoral races.
Early returns in the election for Michoacan state governor showed Victor Manuel Tinoco Rubi of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party leading by nine percentage points.
But the National Action Party strengthened its standing as Mexico’s No. 2 political force in Sunday’s balloting.
Early returns showed the pro-business opposition party leading mayoral races in the capitals of Puebla, Culiacan and Oaxaca states _ an unexpectedly strong showing. The party also claimed it was leading in Morelia, but official figures were not immediately available.
``National Action has shown its strength,″ said Carlos Castillo Peraza, president of the party that won an unprecedented three governorships this year.
In power for 66 years, the ruling party didn’t lose its first governorship race until 1989, when National Action swept Baja California state. The party now has governors in four states.
The ruling party’s power has been hammered by a deep recession that has wiped out more than 1 million jobs.
Reaction to the crisis surfaced in the states of Puebla, Sinaloa, Tlaxcala, Oaxaca and Tamaulipas, where 6.6 million people were registered to pick mayors and state legislators. In Mexico City, voters chose 365 neighborhood council members.
In Puebla City’s mayoral race, a leading exit poll found National Action leading with 50.2 percent to the ruling party’s 38.6 percent. The governing party candidate, German Sierra Sanchez, conceded defeat Monday to National Action’s Gabriel Hinojosa Rivero.
Castillo Peraza told The Associated Press his party benefited from anger over government handling of the economic crisis.
``But we also worked very hard, and while all crises are a factor favoring the opposition, we have a very good platform, very good programs and good strategy,″ said Castillo Peraza.
However, the ruling party said it held the majority in early returns for state legislatures and most local races.
In the Michoacan governor’s race, the ruling party’s Tinoco led with 38.4 percent of the vote, with 60.5 percent of ballots counted.
Cristobal Arias Solis of Democratic Revolution was second with 29.5 percent, and Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of National Action was close behind with 28.8 percent.
Michoacan is the home state of Mexico’s most revered president, Lazaro Cardenas, a populist who gave land to the poor during his 1934-40 term. His son, Cuauhtemoc, became governor but broke from the ruling party in 1987 to establish the Democratic Revolutionary Party.
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, president of Democratic Revolutionary Party, said the leftist party was leading in many smaller towns in the state.
Where the ruling party was losing, its president Santiago Onate Laborde blamed local party leaders for mistakes that turned voters against them.
``That’s the impetus for an immediate reorganization .... to recover places we have lost this time,″ Onate said in Mexico City.
He acknowledged that the economy could be responsible for the party’s losses, but said President Ernesto Zedillo’s policies would eventually help bring recovery and more party votes.
``The economic programs and measures the government has implemented have had a social impact and that has been reflected in the vote,″ Onate admitted. ``We hope that once we have achieved economic recuperation next year, we can harvest the benefits of helping people.″