Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party won a narrow victory in Sunday’s hotly contested governor’s race in Mexico state, according to a preliminary count released by the state electoral institute.
The conclusion — based on partial results from Sunday’s voting — was immediately disputed by the opposition National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, whose candidate was the chief rival of the ruling-party hopeful.
The disagreement seems sure to drag on as the vote count continues in a state where Sunday’s balloting was widely seen as a preview of next year’s presidential election.
The so-called quick count showed Alfredo Del Mazo Maza of the ruling party, known as the PRI, winning a projected total of 32.75% to 33.59%. That compared with a projected vote of 30.73 to 31.53% for Delfina Gomez of Morena.
The preliminary count came at the end of a day in which allegations of election fraud swirled as voters in four Mexican states went to the polls, and the country’s long-dominant political party endeavored to avert a devastating loss before the presidential election.
Officials and the media reported hundreds of irregularities, including bloody pigs’ heads found outside opposition offices, telephone threats to discourage voters, alleged vote-buying and the organized busing of unregistered voters to the polls.
Authorities vowed to investigate the charges, but it was unclear whether the allegations of improprieties would trigger appeals.
Turnout was said to be moderate under sunny skies in the most critical balloting venue, sprawling Mexico state, home to more than 11 million voters, the most in the country.
The PRI has never lost the governor’s seat in Mexico state, a jumble of 125 cities and towns outside the national capital.
But President Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI standard-bearer and a former governor of Mexico state, is saddled with low approval ratings amid rampant crime, rife corruption and a sluggish economy.
Polls showed a tight race in Mexico state between Del Mazo, 41, the son and grandson of former state governors and a distant cousin of the president; and Gomez, 54, a former schoolteacher.
The PRI held the presidency for most of the 20th century before suffering successive losses in 2000 and 2006. Peña Nieto regained the top office for the PRI in 2012, but his lack of popularity could cost the party next year.
Seeking to head off a humiliating defeat in Mexico state, the PRI mobilized its daunting electoral machine to boost turnout in its stronghold. As polls closed Sunday, both the PRI and Morena publicly declared that exit surveys had showed their candidates headed toward victory.
The national head of Morena, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was looking for a Morena victory in Mexico state to jump-start his third run for the presidency. Lopez Obrador, who said he was twice cheated out of presidential triumphs, has accused other parties of engaging in a “dirty war” there.
The PRI was also trying to maintain its gubernatorial seats in the northern border state of Coahuila, along the Rio Grande with Texas, and in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit.
In addition, voters in the Gulf of Mexico state of Veracruz were electing mayors in 212 municipalities. The PRI lost the governors’ posts last year in Veracruz and neighboring Tamaulipas state, both of which had long been ruling-party bastions.
Cecilia Sanchez of the Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.
9:45 p.m.: This article was updated with preliminary results from Mexico state.
This article was originally published at 6:45 p.m.