TOLUCA, Mexico – Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party won the election for governor of the country’s most populous state in a landslide Sunday, strengthening the party’s bid to retake the presidency in national elections next year.
The populist party, which ruled Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years before being voted out office in 2000, also scored apparent victories in gubernatorial elections in two other states: Coahuila and Nayarit.
But it was the election in the state of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City, that had been most closely watched for signs of whether the PRI was gaining or losing momentum going into national elections.
Its current PRI governor, the telegenic Enrique Pena Nieto, is the early presidential front-runner. Even though he wasn’t running in Sunday’s vote, many will see the results as a barometer of his popularity.
His successor, Eruviel Avila, had an almost 40-percentage-point lead over his nearest rival.
With 68 percent of the ballot boxes counted, Avila had a 61.9 percent support, while Alejandro Encinas of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, had 21.5 percent and Luis Felipe Bravo Mena of President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party had 12.7 percent.
Two private exit polls showed similar results.
Avila thanked voters for the victory and said he would seek consensus as governor.
“Our party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, understands clearly what these electoral results mean. The message they carry is responsibility,” said the party’s national leader, Humberto Moreira. “We are the party of the present and the future.”