The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI for its name in Spanish, retook control of Mexico with a win by Enrique Peña Nieto during presidential elections on July 1. The party ruled Mexico for more than 70 years, with interruptions only in 2000 by former president Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and 2006 by outgoing leader Felipe Calderón, both of the rightist National Action Party, or PAN.
Peña Nieto, 46, former governor of the state of Mexico, garnered 38 percent of the vote, according to preliminary figures from the Federal Elections Institute, or IFE. In second place was Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist Progressive Movement coalition with 32 percent, who said he will challenge the results and assured he has evidence of numerous elections irregularities. López Obrador lost to Calderón in 2006 by such a narrow margin that there remains doubt as to whether fraud was involved.
Following López Obrador’s claim, the IFE announced on July 4 that more than half of the ballots will be recounted, which is in accordance with a 2007 reform to election law that emerged after fraud allegations the previous year. This means the official winner of the presidential elections won’t be known for at least another two months.
To be sure, 78,012 (54.5 percent) of vote packets — akin to ballot boxes — from the presidential election “will be opened and counted again”, said IFE executive secretary Edmundo Jacobo during a press conference.
In the meantime, Peña Nieto already declared victory.
“Mexicans have given our party a second chance”, said Peña Nieto, as he declared himself winner earlier this month. “We are going to honor this opportunity with results, with a new form of government that is in line with the realities of 21st century Mexico.”
In addition to president, 128 senators, 500 representatives and the governors of the states of Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco and Yucatan were also elected on July 1, as well as the mayor of Mexico City.
The big loser of these elections was PAN, which had as its presidential candidate Josefina Vásquez Mota, who won 26 percent of the vote.
Analysts attributed the party’s defeat to the escalation of violence fueled by drug trafficking. According to the Attorney General’s Office, since December 2006, when Calderón launched his plan to militarize the fight against drug cartels, until May this year more than 50,000 people have died as a result of organized crime, 3,800 in the first five months of 2012 alone. However, the US Defense Department estimates the number of deaths in that period to be more than 150,000.
The war on drugs is one of the main challenges facing Peña Nieto, who must decide whether to continue the unsuccessful strategy of his predecessor. He announced though that “there will be no agreement or truce with organized crime.”