Mexico's PRI falls short of congressional majority in vote count

Enrique Peña Nieto
MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto's party has fallen short of an absolute majority in Congress, election officials said Tuesday, complicating his ability to push through reforms and possibly forcing him to negotiate with opposition politicians.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and its tiny ally, the Green Party, will have 240 seats in a 500-member lower house of Congress, the Federal Electoral Institute said, based on the final vote count. The alliance will have 61 seats in the 128-member Senate

.Although these represent the final vote count, an election tribunal will have to confirm the configuration. Mexico's complicated system of proportional representation for a handful of positions could alter the final breakdown, but only slightly.

The lack of majority reflects the smaller-than-expected PRI margin of victory over the second-place finisher, leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as the party staged a comeback to presidential power after a 12-year absence.

The electoral process grinds on slowly here, nine days after the July 1 vote. Lopez Obrador has still not recognized the results and is planning a series of legal challenges based on widespread reports of vote-buying, overspending and other possibly illegal irregularities.

Such charges have gained momentum and come even as the PRI tries to live down its past as a notoriously corrupt political juggernaut during its seven decades of rule.

President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party, whom Peña Nieto will replace Dec. 1, joined the fray, telling a radio interviewer that he was worried about the fairness of the process.

"With the evidence I'm seeing growing by the day, yes, I am worried because this is a very serious matter," Calderon said. "The essence of democracy is not just counting the votes, it's also that the campaigns are conducted in equal conditions. ... This buying-selling of political preferences, whether it's 10 or 100 or 1,000, is simply unacceptable."

Unlike Lopez Obrador, however, Calderon is not advocating annulling the election but rather punishing those responsible for wrongdoing and instituting reforms to avoid future abuses.

Peña Nieto told The Times in an interview last week that he did not approve of any of the kinds of election hijinks that his party is being accused of. He said he was confident the courts would sort it all out, and sought to downplay the implications of having won by a margin that was smaller than predicted.

"Obviously, we are in a democratic state where there are multiple parties," he said. "It’s almost mathematically impossible to think that one alone could reach more than 50% of the vote.”

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-- Tracy Wilkinson

Photo: Enrique Peña Nieto, winner of the July 1 presidential election, speaks to journalists Tuesday in  Mexico City. He called on opponents to drop their challenge to the election results. Credit: Alex Cruz / European Pressphoto Agency

 

 
 
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