Voters in Mexico are heading to the polls to choose their next president in an election that is expected to return to power a party that ruled for decades.
Opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s vote show Enrique Pena Nieto – candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI – heading for a landslide victory.
The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000, with a mix of corruption, electoral fraud and repression that Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” But the party has been bolstered recently by voter fatigue due to economic stagnation and a wave of lawlessness that have plagued Mexico under the conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
A large part of that lawlessness has stemmed from the country’s drug violence. Since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against Mexico’s drug cartels in 2006, more than 50,000 people have been killed.
The candidate in second place in opinion polls is leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost the 2006 race by half a point to President Calderon and claimed fraud, leading massive protests in the capital for weeks.
Trailing is PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota who hopes to become the country’s first female president.
The three candidates signed an agreement Thursday, in which they pledged to accept the results of Sunday’s presidential election. The agreement also called on Mexicans to respect the result of the election, despite political disagreements.
The first exit polls are expected at 0100 UTC.