MEXICO CITY -- It’s finally official: Nearly a week after elections for governor in Baja California, the candidate for the conservative party that has ruled the state for a generation was declared the victor.
Francisco Vega of the National Action Party (PAN) narrowly defeated Fernando Castro Trenti of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The difference was fewer than 25,000 votes, a margin of slightly less than 3%.
The vote count, abruptly halted on election night, July 7, was completed over the weekend, and the PRI recognized its loss.
It had been critical to the PAN to hold on to Baja, where in 1989 it became the first political party ever to defeat the PRI by winning the governorship, a post it has held since.
The PRI ruled Mexico virtually unchallenged for seven decades until losing the presidency to the PAN in 2000. Under Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI regained the presidency last year and hopes to consolidate its power nationwide by taking back control of the small number of states in the hands of other parties. Baja was the first challenge.
The campaign was particularly nasty, with each side accusing the other of misdeeds. And it was revealed that Castro’s brother had been investigated by federal prosecutors for alleged ties to drug traffickers.
For the PAN, keeping the top political job in Baja was also seen as important for the party’s continued cooperation with Peña Nieto’s government and its agenda of economic reforms, including a major overhaul of the giant state oil monopoly.