The political party that ruled Mexico for more than 70 years and aspires to recapture the presidency in 2012 appeared headed for lopsided wins Sunday in key state elections that reflected public anger with the government of President Felipe Calderon.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, hoped victories would help cement its steady march back to the presidential palace, and initial results were encouraging to the party’s leaders. The PRI was toppled from the nation’s top office in 2000.
With 15 million people, the state of Mexico is the country’s most populous. Exit polls quoted by Mexican television gave a substantial win there to PRI candidate Eruviel Avila, as was widely expected. He had more than double the votes of his nearest rival, according to these polls. Official results were trickling in through the night and initially confirmed the trends reported by the exit polls.
The PRI was also winning Coahuila, a state bordering Texas that has been devastated by drug-war violence, and Nayarit, on the Pacific Ocean, according to the exit polls. But Nayarit was still in dispute.
The governorship in Mexico state is already controlled by the PRI. Enrique Pena Nieto, the telegenic outgoing governor, is the early favorite to win the presidency next year.
Despite his advantages, Avila campaigned hard and reportedly spent millions of dollars to woo voters. For the party, it seemed the margin of victory was as important as the win itself. The PRI clearly hoped that a landslide would create an impression that it was unstoppable heading into next year’s presidential election.
“Democracy wins today,” Avila said as he cast his ballot on an overcast morning.