Mexico’s governing party on Monday accepted its worst election defeat in six decades in power, a landslide that appeared to leave the right-of-center National Action Party with almost every major elective office in one of the country’s most important states.
“I recognize that the results of the vote that we know up to this moment is not favorable to us,” the governing party’s candidate for governor in the western state of Jalisco, Eugenio Ruiz Orozco, said in what amounted to a concession speech. “We will accept the results.”
By the time Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party spoke at a news conference on Monday afternoon, his conservative rival, Alberto Cardenas Jimenez, 36, had already been celebrating for hours.
According to sample counts of the results, exit polls, and partial official returns, the opposition party, known by its Spanish initials as the PAN, won not only the state house and the city hall in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, but also most of Jalisco’s other big cities and at least 17 of the 20 seats in the state legislature filled by direct election.
With more than half the vote counted, the State Electoral Commission reported on Monday that Cardenas was ahead in the governor’s race with 54.5 percent of the vote, to 35.9 percent for Ruiz Orozco. The final results are not expected until Sunday.
“Jalisco has taught Mexico a great lesson,” Cardenas said early on Monday. “Jalisco said, `We want to work, progress, and live in peace, but with governments that are responsible for their actions, honorable governments that genuinely emerge from the will of the citizens.’ “
The election had been the focus of unusual attention in Mexico. Opposition parties, especially, described it as a significant test of President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon’s promises of more democratic politics. It was also the first in a series of state elections this year in which the governing party will have to face particularly strong opposition, with the added burden of the economic crisis brought on by Zedillo’s sharp devaluation of the peso in late December.
Despite the sting of a vote that was widely seen as punishment for years of corrupt and authoritarian government, the 10-week-old Zedillo administration seemed to feel some relief at the PAN sweep.
Federal officials had feared a much closer result, followed by accusations of fraud and the prospect of a long fight, regardless of which party came out ahead. Instead, after an unusually nasty campaign that was criticized by election-monitoring groups as unfair to the opposition, relatively few irregularities were reported at the polls.