Mexicans are heading to the polls in midterm elections held amid high security following violent protests. The vote comes as public dissatisfaction with politicians grows throughout the country.
Thousands of soldiers and federal police were deployed on Sunday to guard polling stations, particularly in southern states, as Mexicans voted following a campaign season that saw more than a dozen people killed in pre-election violence.
At least three polling stations were prevented from opening after masked protesters and parents of 43 students allegedly killed by a police-backed drug gang last year seized and burned ballots in Tixtla, Guerrero.
The students' parents, along with a loose coalition of dissident teachers' unions and activists, have vowed to prevent the elections.
The teachers attacked the offices of political parties in the states of Chiapas and Guerrero, and burned thousands of ballots in Oaxaca in the weeks leading up to the vote, demanding wage rises and the safe return of the students.
The deployment of federal forces was announced on Friday amid the violent protests, with presidential spokesman Eduardo Sanchez saying a day later that "Mexicans have the right to vote in peace."
Those who died in pre-election violence included three candidates and one would-be candidate.
Voters will be chooosing all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress, nine of 31 governorships and hundreds of mayorships and local posts in what is being seen as a litmus test for president Enrique Pena Nieto's government, which is seeking to maintain its commanding congressional majority.
Pena Nieto's popularity, and that of his Institutional Revolutionary Party, has been on the wane amid a series of corruption scandals, worry about a faltering economy and human rights concerns about the missing students, who prosecutors say were killed and incinerated by a drug gang.
Only one student's remains has been so far identified by DNA testing, and many of the parents refuse to believe that they are dead.
In a first for Mexico, one of the top contenders in the industrial state of Nuevo Leon is an independent candidate, Jaime "El Bronco" Rodriguez, who could become the first ever independent to be elected governor.
tj/rc (AP, AFP)