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Mexico's ruling party close to lower house majority

Official estimates from Mexico's midterm elections show the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and its allies close to a lower house majority. But they could still fall short amid widespread voter discontent.

A preliminary estimate of the seat distribution in the 500-strong lower house released late on Sunday by Mexico's national electoral institute (INE) showed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its allies with between 246 and 263 members.

The estimate suggests that the ruling coalition could possibly fall short of a working majority.

The PRI of President Enrique Pena Nieto (pictured center) was expected to win between 29.87 and 30.85 percent of the vote from

Sunday's elections,

ahead of the conservative national Action Party on 21.47-22.7 percent, according to INE president Lorenzo Cordova.

Currently, the PRI and its allies, the Green Party and the New Alliance Party (PANAL), have 251 seats in the lower house.

The government has experienced falling approval ratings in recent times, amid accusations that it has done little to bolster a faltering economy or combat the country's drug-related violence.

Pena Nieto has come under personal criticism for his handling of the investigation into the apparent massacre of 43 students in September by a drug gang linked with local police. He has also faced corruption accusations after it emerged that he, his wife and his finance minister had bought houses from government contractors.

Pre-election unrest

In the northern industrial state of Nuevo Leon, exit polls showed that Jaime Rodriguez Calderon was likely to become the first independent candidate ever to be elected governor in Mexico, after an election campaign that capitalized on widespread discontent with corrupt politicians.

Voting on Sunday was overshadowed by

pre-election violence,

with at least four candidates and nine campaign officials being murdered.

On Saturday, at least 10 people were killed in gang fighting near the resort city of Acapulco, but officials said the violence probably resulted from an internal feud and was not related to the elections.

In other unrest, activists and radical teachers wanting to thwart the elections stole or set fire to dozens of ballot boxes in the southern states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas early on Sunday, but voting was otherwise said to be peaceful.

This was perhaps owing to a

massive deployment of federal police and troops to guard polling stations.

Protesters angry at the alleged student massacre also burned ballot boxes in the town of Tixtla in Guerrero, near to the teacher training college attended by the missing men.

Many parents of the students refuse to believe they are dead, and wanted to postpone the elections until they are returned.

The elections were to choose 500 federal legislators, hundreds of mayors and nine governors.

tj/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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