Coalition Candidate Easily Defeats Rival from Governing Party in Chiapas Gubernatorial Election

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, August 23, 2000 | Go to article overview

Coalition Candidate Easily Defeats Rival from Governing Party in Chiapas Gubernatorial Election


The governing Partido Revolucionario Insititucional (PRI) suffered its second major setback of 2000, losing the Aug. 20 gubernatorial election in Chiapas state to an opposition candidate.

In preliminary results released Aug. 21 by the Instituto Estatal Electoral (IEE) of Chiapas, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia, representing the Alianza por Chiapas, obtained almost 53% of the vote. In contrast, Sami David David of the PRI received 47% of the vote. A third candidate, Mario Arturo Coutino of the Partido Democracia Social (PDS) took about 0.3% of the vote.

The IEE said only about 50% of the registered voters in Chiapas turned up at the polls, slightly lower than the rate reported in the July 2 presidential and congressional elections.

The Chiapas gubernatorial election was the second major defeat for the PRI, which lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) on July 2. On that date, the PRI also lost badly in the gubernatorial and state legislative races in Morelos and Guanajuato states (see SourceMex, 2000-07-05).

The Alianza por Chiapas, led by the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) and the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), also included the Partido del Trabajo (PT) and the Partido Verde Ecologista Mexicano (PVEM).

Four other smaller parties--Convergencia Democratica (CD), the Partido del Centro Democratico (PCD), the Partido Alianza Social (PAS), and the Partido Sociedad Nacionalista (PSN)--threw their support to Salazar. These parties were formed very recently and were thus prohibited by Chiapas state law from joining the coalition.

Salazar, who left the PRI to represent the Alianza por Chiapas, was at one time a key member of the congressional Chiapas peace commission (Comision de Concordia y Pacificacion, COCOPA). He is the second candidate to unite all major opposition parties to defeat the PRI, repeating a feat accomplished by Antonio Echeverria Dominguez in Nayarit state in July 1999 (see SourceMex, 1999-07-07).

Coalitions also unseated the PRI in gubernatorial races in Zacatecas, Baja California Sur, and Tlaxcala states, but these alliances did not include the PAN.

In attaining his impressive victory, Salazar galvanized both the strong support for the PRD in the small rural communities throughout Chiapas and the popularity of the PAN in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Some analysts said Salazar's decision not to align himself too closely with PRD presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas was an astute strategy. Cardenas received only 17% of the vote in the July 2 election.

"This strategy gave Salazar the freedom to proclaim himself more of a coalition candidate and ride the coattails of winning presidential candidate Vicente Fox," said political analyst Roberto Zamarripa of the daily newspaper Reforma.

Loss called a significant blow to the PRI

Political analysts agreed the loss in Chiapas, where the PRI at one time dominated the electoral process, was especially troublesome for PRI officials. "The election in Chiapas is almost a fatal blow to the PRI," said independent pollster Maria de las Heras.

But a Salazar victory appeared almost inevitable this year, barring massive fraud. The coalition candidate led voter preference by 13 to 20 percentage points in public- opinion polls conducted in the weeks leading to the election (see SourceMex, 2000-08-03).

Salazar won the election handily despite the strong campaign by a group of southeastern PRI governors to drum up support for David. The governors--including Roberto Madrazo Pintado of Tabasco, Victor Cervera Pacheco of Yucatan, Antonio Gonzalez Curi of Campeche, and outgoing Chiapas Gov. Roberto Albores Guillen--had pledged to keep the PRI the dominant party in the southeastern states.

Many foreign and domestic observers said the administration of outgoing Gov. …

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