Mexico holds its presidential and congressional elections, as the country struggles with a gruesome drug war and sluggish economy. The Institutional Revolutionary Party appears set for a return to power.
Mexicans are voting in presidential and congressional elections on Sunday, with opinion surveys suggesting that the party which monopolized the country's politics for 71 years would likely return to power.
As the most populous Spanish-speaking nation in the world, Mexico has some 79.5 million registered voters out of a population of 114 million people. The North American nation's voters will elect a new president, 500 members of the lower house of Congress, 128 senators and six state governors on Sunday.
Enrique Pena Nieto of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is tipped to win the presidential contest. The 45-year-old former governor of Mexico State currently has a wide lead over his rivals, with the most recent opinion polls giving him more than 40 percent support.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) currently polls second, trailing at around 25 percent. Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) trails third with approximately 20 percent.
The PRI dominated Mexican politics from 1929 until the presidential election in 2000, when it lost power to PAN, ushering in democracy. During its 71 year reign, the PRI was known for corruption, vote-rigging and the repression of political dissent.
'A party reborn'
But Nieto claims that the PRI has reformed itself and will create a "democracy of better results."
"This is a party reborn, ready to win the democratic contest," he said last month. "But above all, ready to govern democratically, with complete transparency and accountability."
Nieto's candidacy triggered student demonstrations during the final months of campaigning, with the protesters claiming that the PRI has not changed since its days in power.
The PRI was largely written off after its loss in 2000, and its third place finish in the 2006 presidential elections. But the party has ridden voter frustration to the top of the polls this time around. Polls suggest the PRI is also poised to win a majority in Mexico's Congress.
Many Mexicans are fatigued with an economy still weak from the 2008 financial crisis and the country's brutal drug war. Some 50,000 people have died in that war since conservative incumbent President Felipe Calderon deployed the military to combat drug cartels in 2006.
Nieto has profiled himself as an economic pragmatist, promising to spur economic growth with pro-market economic policies. He has also promised to reduce murders, kidnappings, extortion and human trafficking by doubling the size of the federal police force.
slk/jlw (AP, dpa, Reuters)