Peña Nieto: Mexicans have given our party a second chance
Official polls give PRI seven-point lead as leader claims election victory and promises ‘no return to the past’
The party that governed Mexico for 71 years, until its reputation for coercion, corruption, economic mismanagement, and vote-rigging finally forced it out of power in 2000, has claimed an emphatic election victory behind its charismatic candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Early official results gave the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 38% of the vote and a seven-point lead in a count of a sample of polling stations. Opinion polls had predicted a 10- to 15-point lead for the PRI.
“Mexicans have given our party a second chance,” Peña Nieto told chanting supporters after President Felipe Calderón phoned to congratulated him. “We will honour it with results and with a new form of governing that responds to the demands of Mexico in the 21st century.”
Reporters inside the PRI’s imposing modernist complex in the capital saw few of the so-called party dinosaurs, who still hold sway within the organisation, during a carefully managed victory celebration that featured a stage adorned with seven Mexican flags, confetti, and the rousing strains of the mariachi classic Cielito Lindo. Elated young supporters chanted :”We are the PRI to come.”
Peña Nieto, the former governor of Mexico’s most populous state, the State of Mexico, promised there would be “no return to the past”.
He vowed to alleviate the poverty affecting around half the population with a “renewed free market with social sensitivity”, and countered charges that the PRI is likely to seek deals with the drug cartels. “There will be no pact or truce with organised crime,” he pledged.
Peña Nieto also reached out to the student movement, which rejected him as a superficial makeover of the old regime constructed by the broadcasting giant Televisa.
“I share your desires and I understand your complaints,” the candidate said. “I also want a new country, a successful country that recognises the potential and the talent of every Mexican.”
But the students were unconvinced. One group, which calls itself “I Am 132” in reference to an early protest in May, released a video showing several rows of glum-looking young people who said they “energetically reject the imposition of a candidate”.
The students reiterated allegations that Peña Nieto had benefitted unfairly from favourable coverage in the mass media. They also said the election had been plagued by irregularities and episodes of violence that meant polling day “did not take place in the atmosphere of peace and legality that is necessary to ensure a free and reasoned vote”.
Pictured: Enrique Peña Nieto moved to reassure the student movement, saying: ‘I understand your complaints.’ Photograph: Guillermo Arias/Xinhua Press/Corbis