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Mexico: PRI Holds Party Election - 2002-02-25

Mexico's former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, held an election on Sunday to determine who will be its new president. The result is still too close to call and the once-powerful political organization faces the prospect of internal disputes.

Long after the voting was over at the 7,400 voting stations set up around the nation, the vote counting continued with no result. Even a special quick count tabulation showed a race that was too close to call according to the PRI's election commission chief, Humberto Roque Villanueva. He says that even the scientific sampling method being used cannot provide a suggestion of who is ahead because the vote count is too close.

The two contenders for party president are former state governors, Roberto Madrazo, of Tabasco, and Beatriz Paredes, of Tlaxcala. Mr. Madrazo was among the candidates in the PRI's first-ever presidential primary in the year 2000, but lost to candidate Francisco Labastida, who then went on to lose the presidential election to current President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party. Beatriz Paredes recently stepped down temporarily from her position as president of the Chamber of Deputies in order to run in this election.

Both candidates are considered populists, but Ms. Paredes is seen as more reform-minded, while Mr. Madrazo represents, for many, the face of the old PRI. He was accused of election fraud in his home state of Tabasco and is known to be well-connected with wealthy, old-line figures within the party.

The contest between the two has revealed fissures within the party that ruled Mexico uninterrupted for 71-years until Mr. Fox's victory in the 2000 election. Tensions between the two contestants in this internal election were heightened last week when Mr. Madrazo pulled out of a scheduled debate with Ms. Paredes.

Analysts say the election may have done the party more harm than good by revealing the depth of political rivalries within. The party is also under pressure because of allegations being pursued by the Fox government that money from the state-owned oil company was diverted to the Labastida campaign in 2000, a charge party leaders have denied. Although no longer in control of the presidency, the PRI remains the party with the largest representation in the national Congress and controls 17 of Mexico's 31 state governorships.