By Dave Graham / Reuters
Mexico’s ruling party lost several bastions in Sunday’s regional elections to the center-right opposition, dealing a heavy blow to President Enrique Pena Nieto for failing to crack down on corruption and gang violence.
The rout will help set the tone for the next presidential election in 2018, underscoring deep discontent over graft scandals and a sluggish economy, and throwing the contest open to contenders from both the left and right.
Early results from gubernatorial races in 12 of Mexico’s 31 states on Monday showed Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, heading for defeat in seven of them, a result far worse than most polls had forecast.
Projected losses included two oil-rich strongholds in the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz and neighboring Tamaulipas, both of which have been plagued by gang violence for years, as well as Quintana Roo, home to Mexico’s top tourist destination Cancun. All three have been run by the PRI for over eight decades.
The center-right National Action Party (PAN) was the big victor in the gubernatorial races, leading in seven states. In three of these contests, it fielded a candidate in alliance with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
“If we get results, we’re going to win the presidency in 2018,” PAN leader Ricardo Anaya told local radio.