State and local elections held across Mexico appeared to be turning into a major defeat for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, according to partial results released Monday.
The voting, held Sunday in states that account for slightly more than one-third of Mexico’s population, were viewed as leading indicators for the presidential election in 2018.
The ruling party, or PRI, appeared to be leading in only five of the 12 states where voters were electing governors, according to the partial count. The PRI went into the elections holding the governor’s seat in nine of the 12 states.
The big winner appeared to be the PRI’s chief rival, the National Action Party, or PAN, which was leading in seven states, sometimes in coalition with the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.
Most significantly, the PRI gubernatorial candidate conceded defeat in Veracruz and appeared to be trailing in another closely watched election in Tamaulipas, which is on the northern border with Texas. The two critical gulf states — longtime bastions of the PRI — featured hard-fought gubernatorial contests.
The Veracruz race, which featured dueling cousins as the two leading candidates, was viewed as the most polemical in this year’s elections, featuring allegations among candidates of corruption, links to drug mafias, secret deals and even pedophilia. The PAN candidate said he was the victim of a “dirty war” waged by the PRI, which was keen not to lose leadership of the oil-rich state.
With almost 80% of the votes counted in Veracruz, Miguel Angel Yunes Linares, candidate of the PAN-led opposition bloc, had garnered 33.86% of the vote, compared with 30.01% for his cousin, PRI candidate Hector Yunes Landa.
Cuitlahuac Garcia, candidate of a relatively new left-wing political bloc known as Morena, had garnered 27.96% of the vote.
The PRI candidate, Yunes Landa, acknowledged his defeat. “There is a clear message here not just for the PRI, but for all of our governments.” he said. “Let’s assume responsibly this message.”
Along with Veracruz and Tamaulipas, the PAN or PAN-led alliance was leading in five other states — Puebla, Chihuahua, Durango, Quintana Roo and Aguascalientes — according to partial results.
The PRI was leading in five states: Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas.
In a radio interview, the president of the PRI, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, seemed to acknowledge that things were not going well.
“What we have to do is observe these elections and take into account the message that the electorate has given the PRI,” Beltrones said. “There are actions to improve and change and reconnect with the citizens.’”
Analysts said the results in Sunday’s vote could point to the difficulty facing the PRI in retaining the presidency in 2018.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is more than halfway through his six-year term, faces low approval ratings amid voter discontent with a sluggish economy, unchecked violence and corruption.
Peña Nieto won back the presidency for the PRI in 2012 after a 12-year hiatus in which the PAN held the nation’s top office. Officials of the PAN were celebrating their apparent triumphs this week and proclaiming that their chances for recapturing Los Pinos, the Mexican White House, had improved substantially.
MORE WORLD NEWS
Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.