Ex-governor expected to win Mexico’s former ruling party’s presidential primary
MEXICO CITY – A former Gulf Coast state governor said Sunday he was assured of victory in a little-contested primary election to decide the 2006 presidential candidate of the party that ruled Mexico for seven straight decades.Early results expected hours after the polls closed should confirm an easy win for Roberto Madrazo, who served as the head of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI – but officials acknowledged that the race was marred by low voter turnout.The primary marked the first time the PRI has chosen a presidential candidate without controlling the presidency, and though the party has been marked by division, the only other candidate in the race, Everardo Moreno, was not expected to generate much support.Madrazo, an old-style PRI power broker, voted in his native Tabasco state, where he was governor. He later denied charges the primary was a sham and said that reports of division within the PRI were exaggerated.”I’m sure that after today, we can win the internal election and things will get better for the life of the party,” he said.The PRI controlled Mexico’s presidency from its founding in 1929 until President Vicente Fox was elected in 2000. Fox is barred from running again and disappointment with his conservative National Action Party has become widespread after the president failed to make good on many campaign promises.Madrazo’s bid for the PRI nomination was not derailed by the opposition of a powerful, 1.2-million-member teacher’s union which had threatened to boycott the primary.The union usually counts itself among the PRI’s strongest supporters, but a political spat that pitted Madrazo against union leader Elba Esther Gordillo led many teachers to oppose Madrazo’s candidacy.Gordillo quit the party’s No. 2 post in September, after courts rejected her argument that PRI bylaws should have let her follow Madrazo as party leader. Madrazo stepped down in August to run for president.Besides National Action, the PRI bid to regain the presidency will have to content with ex-Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, who leads most public opinion polls ahead of the July 2006 election.PRI officials set up more than 19,000 voting booths in 27 of the country’s 31 states and Mexico City. Voting was canceled in Chiapas and other southern states where officials are cleaning up from Hurricane Stan, which ravaged the area in early October.Also, no votes were cast in Quintana Roo and Yucatan states, hit hard by Hurricane Wilma late last month, or the central state of Hidalgo in order to avoid conflicts with local elections.After voting in Mexico City, Moreno said that if his bid for the PRI nomination fizzles, he will likely support Madrazo.Voting was open to PRI militants and registered members and 8 million ballots were printed, said Rafael Rodriguez, head of the party’s internal elections committee. Madrazo said late in the day he hoped to get 3 million votes.Sunday’s race looked like it would be close until Oct. 20, when Madrazo’s main challenger, former Mexico state governor Arturo Montiel, dropped out amid allegations of alleged million-dollar property and bank transactions by him and his family.