Go Left or Right? Mexico Decides; for Country's Middle Class, Ideology Is Less Important Than Maintaining Status

Article excerpt

NAUCALPAN, Mexico - Middle-class voters like Gerardo Olivo helped drive Mexico's ruling party from power 12 years ago, ending its seven decades of rule.

Now the same voters seem ready to bring back the party everyone knows as the PRI.

Olivo, 33, a financial trader, said he voted for the now- governing National Action Party in the past two presidential elections, hoping it would transform Mexico. He's fed up now, though. "My position today is to go back to the PRI," he said.

The PRI - or Institutional Revolutionary Party - held a strong lead in all of the final, major pre-election polls on Wednesday, counting on the very thirst for change that led voters to pry it from the presidency in 2000.

The party had been built to run Mexico from top to bottom under the orders of the president. Unions, farm groups and professional associations were all squeezed in its paternalistic embrace. That old PRI system gradually began to crumble as Mexico's urban middle class slowly swelled. Shopkeepers and small-business owners, professionals and academics grew weary of the corruption and heavy hand of the old system. …