Ruling party vote kicks off primary season in Mexico |

Ruling party vote kicks off primary season in Mexico

MONTERREY, Mexico – They were one for all and all for one as members of President Vicente Fox’s Cabinet. On Sunday, three former secretaries vied to represent the ruling National Action Party in July 2006 presidential elections.Hundreds of primary voters filed into National Action headquarters in this northern industrial city for the first of three regional votes to select a presidential candidate. Fox is prohibited by law from seeking a second, six-year term.The voting kicks off the primary season among Mexico’s three major political parties, which must register their candidates by January.During 71 years of uninterrupted power – which ended with Fox’s historic victory in 2000 – Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, presidents hand-picked their successors behind closed doors and the party conducted elections often marred by fraud.This year, political parties already are tossing and turning over who to back.Former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, leads all polls on the presidential election and is expected to receive the PRD’s nomination Sep. 18 without contest.But Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, a PRD founder and three-time presidential candidate, remains a wild card. In July, Cardenas announced he wouldn’t seek his party’s nomination but didn’t rule out a fourth run for the presidency with a smaller party – a move that could split the leftist vote.Among the contenders for the nomination of the National Action Party, or PAN, Former Interior Minister Santiago Creel had been leading preferences among party members, especially in the north. But after a televised debate last week, former Energy Minister Felipe Calderon gained a few points in public opinion polls and is now tied with Creel.Former Environment Secretary Alberto Cardenas also is seeking the nomination.”We need to follow through with changing the country,” said Martin Lopez, 32, a public accountant from Monterrey. “I voted for Santiago Creel because I believe he can provide continuity to the government of Fox.”The center-right PAN was choosing its presidential candidate via three regional votes for which an estimated 1.1 million party members are eligible.Party members in 10 Mexican states, including Nuevo Leon, of which Monterrey is the capital, will take part in Sunday’s vote. The second vote is Oct. 2, and the third is Oct. 23.If no candidate obtains 50 percent plus one vote in the first phase a second round will be held Nov. 6 between the top two contenders.At least 10 presidential hopefuls emerged as early competitors months before Mexico’s political parties were to choose their presidential candidates.”Today we’ll see whether the rush of all presidential hopefuls matches society’s mood,” Mexico’s Reforma newspaper said in a Sunday editorial.About 340,000 PAN member are eligible for the Sunday vote, but the most optimistic estimates say only 80,000 will cast a vote.Two people are seeking the candidacy of the PRI, which remains the country’s biggest party. Former Mexico state governor Arturo Montiel and former PRI party president Roberto Madrazo are scheduled to face off in a primary Oct. 30.In Monterrey on Sunday, Elisa Garcia, 81, said she trusted the PAN could win the general election next year as long as the party reminds people what Mexico went through earlier under the PRI.”There still is a lot of corruption,” said Garcia, a PAN member since 1989. “And if we forget it, we can fall into the same thing.”Vail, Colorado

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