Mexico's ruling party takes big lead in voting, but fraud is charged

August 20, 1991|By John M. McClintock | John M. McClintock,Mexico City Bureau of The Sun

MEXICO CITY -- With nearly 8 percent of the vote counted, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party appears to have won a massive 60 percent of the vote in Sunday's state and congressional elections, according to official figures released yesterday.

However, the PRI victory has produced widespread charges of fraud and fueled suspicions that could hurt the image of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

The midterm elections apparently produced a higher voter turnout than the 1988 presidential election, in which 50 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls. In that election, the PRI gained 51 percent of the vote to 46 percent for all opposition parties. The remaining votes were voided. Preliminary figures from Sunday's election indicate that the PRI won 60 percent of the vote to 37 percent for the opposition.

If the PRI's victory percentage holds, the ruling party could win all of the 32 Senate seats and six governorships up for election, plus an overwhelming majority in the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress.

In Mexico City, the PRI said, it regained 17 congressional seats it lost in 1988, thus giving it all of the capital's 40 seats. Similar claims were made in Baja California, long a bastion of the center-right National Action Party.

Skeptical opposition leaders said that such overwhelming victories seemed to fly in the face of Mr. Salinas' pledge to democratize Mexico, which has been dominated by the PRI for 62 years.

The opposition's two most notable election opportunities were gubernatorial races in the states of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi, where the PRI had run candidates as political favors to previous presidents.

Vicente Fox, the National Action Party gubernatorial candidate inGuanajuato state, proclaimed himself the victor over the PRI's Ramon Aguirre yesterday and called for a demonstration by his followers today. Mr. Aguirre is a political crony of former President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.

Mr. Fox's claim was supported by Sen. Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a leftist candidate who placed a distant third in the race.

"The vote trend in all of Mexico demonstrates a general fraud," said Mr. Munoz Ledo, a former president of the PRI who defected to the Party of the Democratic Revolution. "Isn't it ironic that this was happening on the day that Gorbachev fell?"

In neighboring San Luis Potosi state, the National Action Party claimed that its gubernatorial victory was being stolen and that it had more than 500 examples of vote-rigging, raising the possibility that the party might take to the streets.

Salvador Nava Martinez, the gubernatorial candidate of the National Action Party and two other parties, said yesterday that the coalition was planning to mount demonstrations until "our triumph is recognized."

Mr. Nava Martinez was opposed by the PRI's Fausto Zapata, an official in the government of former President Luis Echeverria.

In both states, the candidates were personally approved by President Salinas, despite a new PRI program for selecting candidates through a modified primary system.

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