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Mexico rivals dispute key state election

08 july 2013, 11:54
0
 Baja California's candidate for governor of the coalition "Unidos por Baja California", Francisco Vega. ©AFP
Baja California's candidate for governor of the coalition "Unidos por Baja California", Francisco Vega. ©AFP
Mexico's ruling party and the conservative opposition each declared victory in a key race for governor on Sunday after regional elections in 14 states that saw acts of violence and accusations of misdeeds, AFP reports.

The governor's seat in Baja California state, held by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) opposition for the past 24 years, was the biggest prize in the regional polls and its result could affect a national reforms pact.

The state is significant in Mexican political history: When the PAN won the governorship in 1989, it broke decades of dominance by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Underscoring the importance of the results, the heads of both parties were in Tijuana, the bustling city bordering the United States, to declare victory minutes after polls closed.

PRI chief Cesar Camacho said voters had "decided by a majority that their next governor will be Fernando Castro Trenti."

Moments later, PAN president Gustavo Madero declared: "Our candidate (Francisco) 'Kiko' Vega is the next governor of Baja California."

Defeat for the PAN would be another hard knock for the conservatives, which made history in 2000 when it won the presidency, ending the PRI's 71-year dominance. The PAN however has faced intra-party fighting since losing the presidency last year.

For the PRI, it would mark another big victory after President Enrique Pena Nieto ended the party's 12-year absence from the nation's highest office in July 2012.

Analysts say a Baja California defeat for the PAN could weaken Madero, who has faced dissent over his decision to sign a pact with the PRI and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) to enact nationwide reforms.

In turn, an end to the so-called Pact for Mexico could endanger a reform drive pushed by Pena Nieto. So far, the deal has led to an overhaul of the education system and telecoms industry, and the president now hopes to breathe new life into the energy sector and reform the tax system.

Some 32 million voters were eligible to cast ballots in 14 of 32 federal entities, with state legislatures and 931 of the country's 2,440 municipalities on the line.

When he took office, Pena Nieto made two big promises: To break with the old ways of the PRI, which once rigged votes to hold on to power; and reduce drug violence that killed 70,000 during the six-year term of his predecessor, PAN party member Felipe Calderon.

But the country's three main parties traded accusations of intimidation and corruption in various states during what turned out to be one of the most violent campaign seasons in recent years.

A half-dozen candidates, politicians and relatives were killed in the run-up to the vote.

A PRI member died of gunshot wounds in the eastern Veracruz state town of Coxquihui after a "possible partisan clash" on Sunday, a state government spokesman told AFP.

In Baja California, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the house of a candidate from the Social Meeting Party. The politician escaped unscathed.

Ballot thefts, meanwhile, were reported in the southern state of Oaxaca and the central state of Puebla along with other election shenanigans.

Madero himself said he was unable to vote at his polling station in the northern state of Chihuahua, posting a video on Twitter of the closed location and the message "Morning TRICKS of the PRI."

PRD head Jesus Zambrano claimed that organized crime groups operated for PRI candidates.

The PRI rejected the accusations, countering that the opposition committed abuses.

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