Elec­tion tests rul­ing party in coun­try’s big­gest state

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY MARK STEVEN­SON AND MARIA VERZA

ECATEPEC, MEX­ICO | Vot­ers in Mex­ico’s most pop­u­lous state on Sun­day could hand the rul­ing party a much-needed boost ahead of next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions or a po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing blow by throw­ing off its un­in­ter­rupted 88-year lo­cal rule.

Vot­ing cen­ters opened in the morn­ing amid com­plaints that some vot­ers had re­ceived in­tim­i­dat­ing tele­phone calls warn­ing them not to cast bal­lots and re­ports of bloody pig heads be­ing left out­side op­po­si­tion party of­fices. Polling sta­tions were to close at 7 p.m. EDT.

Polls gave the rul­ing In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party of Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto a slight edge in the clos­ing days of the Mex­ico State cam­paign, but the re­sult will largely de­pend on which party can get its back­ers to vote and the pos­si­bil­ity of party switch­ing by vot­ers whose pri­or­ity is pre­vent­ing a PRI vic­tory.

Some, like shop­keeper Ruben Sanchez Men­doza, 47, were fed up with al­most 90 years of un­in­ter­rupted rule by the PRI. Sanchez Men­doza said he voted for Del­fina Gomez, the can­di­date of the left­ist Morena party.

“We are tired of so much cor­rup­tion, cor­rupt politi­cians, cor­rupt po­lice,” said Mr. Sanchez Men­doza. “The truth is, with­out a change, I don’t see a fu­ture for our­selves or our chil­dren.”

At a polling sta­tion nearby, re­tiree Maria Con­cep­cion Sanchez Mo­rales, 65, said she was vot­ing for the PRI, de­spite claims by Morena that the rul­ing party gave away “rot­ten beans” to buy votes.

“They say they give out rot­ten beans, but at least they give out beans,” said Ms. Sanchez Mo­rales. “Let’s not lie: all the ben­e­fit pro­grams come from the PRI.”

But both res­i­dents of the sprawl­ing sub­urb of Ecatepec agreed that crime — in the form of wide­spread rob­beries in the street and aboard pub­lic buses — was the most press­ing is­sue.

“They rob, they steal, at any time of the day or night,” Ms. Sanchez Mo­rales com­plained.

Near the polling sta­tions, neigh­bors had strung a ban­ner across one street read­ing: “Thief, if we catch you, we’re not go­ing to turn you over to po­lice. We will lynch you.”

A loss for the PRI’s Al­fredo Del Mazo would be a “huge hit,” said Jose An­to­nio Cre­spo, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at Mex­ico’s Cen­ter for Eco­nomic Re­search and Teach­ing. “It would lose one of the most im­por­tant bas­tions in terms of im­age, in terms of en­thu­si­asm among PRIists.”

The only cer­tainty is that if the PRI wins there will be al­le­ga­tions of fraud, Mr. Cre­spo said.

The fed­eral elec­toral pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said it has re­ceived a sharp in­crease in com­plaints of al­leged ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and res­i­dents of the state re­port par­ties of­fer­ing them pack­ages of sta­ple goods. Lo­cal news­pa­pers pub­lished pho­tos of money cards bear­ing the PRI in­signia al­legedly be­ing handed out to po­ten­tial vot­ers.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vot­ers on Sun­day could in­ter­rupt PRI’s 88-year straight lo­cal rule, which could de­liver a dev­as­tat­ing blow to the party.

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