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Ruling party making gains in Mexico vote

Associated Press / July 5, 2010

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CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — President Felipe Calderon’s party appeared headed to victory yesterday in a longtime stronghold of the former ruling party and was in a tight race for the governorship of another key state, according to exit polls and preliminary official results.

A win in the southern state of Oaxaca would be a much-needed boost for Calderon after a campaign for local elections in more than a dozen states that was besieged by assassinations and scandals that displayed the power of drug cartels.

Oaxaca, an impoverished and volatile region, is one of several states in which Calderon’s conservative National Action Party formed alliances with leftist parties seeking to thwart a resurgence of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years and still controls many state governments.

The PRI had hoped for significant gains in the elections to pick up momentum for its bid to regain the presidency in 2012, trying to capitalize on growing frustration with surging drug gang violence. But exit polls released by TV Azteca and Televisa indicated the PRI would not significantly improve on the nine governorships it already held among the dozen seats up for grabs.

The polls and preliminary official results pointed to a PRI defeat in Oaxaca, a heavily indigenous state that it had ruled for 80 years. The PAN and its leftist allies were also in a tight race in the PRI bastion of Sinaloa, a violent northern state that is the birthplace of the powerful drug cartel of the same name.

With about 9 percent of the vote counted, preliminary official results showed alliance candidate Mario Lopez with a slight lead over Jesus Vizcarra, the PRI gubernatorial candidate.

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