The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) won resounding victories in two gubernatorial elections on Nov. 14, placing the former governing party in a good position to reclaim the presidency in 2006. The PRI won by landslide margins in gubernatorial elections in Tamaulipas and Puebla states and appeared to take a narrow victory in Sinaloa state. The governing Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) was the apparent surprise winner in Tlaxcala state, ousting the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD).
The narrow margin of victory in Sinaloa for the PRI and in Tlaxcala for the PAN prompted opposition parties to challenge the results, which means that the country's top electoral court (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federacion (TEPJF) could end up deciding the outcome of those races. The electoral court also had a hand in deciding the winners in disputed gubernatorial elections in Oaxaca and Veracruz and the mayoral race in Tijuana, all in favor of the PRI.
"We won't know who the official winners are [in Tlaxcala and Sinaloa] for several months," said political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo, of the Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economica (CIDE).
The PRD, which faced a major rift going into the Tlaxcala election, also suffered losses in the state legislative and municipal elections in Michoacan state. The PRD also fared very poorly in the three other gubernatorial elections, raising questions about the party's ability to compete outside its strongholds in Mexico City and Zacatecas in the 2006 presidential race.
Abstentionism was high in most elections, with slightly more than half of registered voters casting their ballots in Tamaulipas, Puebla, and Sinaloa. Additionally, the Tamaulipas and Sinaloa elections were riddled by allegations that donations from drug traffickers helped finance the campaigns of the PRI and the PAN.
The hotly contested election in Tlaxcala brought out 60% of the registered voters in the state, but the lack of a gubernatorial race resulted in only 40% participation in Michoacan.
Some legislators are concerned that the high abstentionism may extend to the 2006 presidential elections, especially with political scandals capturing the top headlines in the news media. This has prompted PAN Sen. Rafael Morgan Alvarez to propose legislation to offer incentives to registered voters who show up at the polls for the 2006 presidential race and all subsequent federal elections. The measure has been turned over to two Senate committees for further study.
PRI wins landslide victories in Tamaulipas, Puebla
The huge PRI victories in Tamaulipas and Puebla were not surprising because public-opinion polls in the two states had projected that candidates for the two parties would score easy wins in the gubernatorial races.
In Tamaulipas, PRI candidate Eugenio Hernandez Flores received 58.4% of the vote, compared with 31% for Gustavo Cardenas Gutierrez of the PAN and about 7% for Alvaro Garza Cantu of the PRD, said the Instituto Electoral de Tamaulipas (IEETAM). Hernandez is a protege of outgoing Gov. Tomas Yarrington Rubalcava.
The strength of the PRI in Tamaulipas was also reflected in the state legislative races, with the party taking 18 of 19 directly elected seats, compared with one for the PAN and none for the PRD. The PRI also performed well in municipal elections, ousting the PAN from the mayoral seat in the port city of Tampico and the PRD from Ciudad Madero. The PRI, however, lost its hold on the mayoral seat in the US-Mexico border city of Reynosa.
In his victory speech, Hernandez emphasized the strong support the PRI received in Tamaulipas compared with this year's elections in Oaxaca and Veracruz, where the former governing party won narrow and disputed victories (see SourceMex, 2004-08-04 and 2004-09-15). "Let's turn the page and look forward because this process has …