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Mexico Governor’s Race Offers a Rare Chance to Defeat the Ruling Party

In the last election, in 2011, the party prevailed with more than 61 percent of the vote.

But the P.R.I.’s current candidate, Alfredo del Mazo Maza, acknowledged during a campaign rally last week that his party “is facing a challenge like never before.”

“The future of the P.R.I., the future of this country, depends on our victory,” he said.

The bitterly fought race has been featured accusations of fraud and malfeasance, levied against the P.R.I. and other parties, that include vote-buying, intimidation and the confiscation of voting cards. The agency that monitors electoral crime has opened more than 230 cases regarding irregularities, more than double the number in the last election six years ago.

“I think the people want another party,” said Juan Hernández, 48, an airport employee, who was sitting in a square in the town of Ocoyoacac after voting for one of the opposition candidates. “But the P.R.I. has all the power and the money and is putting all that money in the campaign.

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Mr. del Mazo, center, acknowledged that his Institutional Revolutionary Party “is facing a challenge like never before.” Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

He added: “It’s difficult to see how another party can win.”

Regardless of the outcome Sunday, Mr. López Obrador, who has declared his intention to run for president next year and has fashioned himself as the candidate best equipped to battle with President Trump, stands to benefit greatly.

A victory by his party’s candidate, Delfina Gómez Álvarez, a former director of an elementary school who entered politics in 2012, would help establish Mr. López Obrador’s young party as a legitimate national force.

Even if Ms. Gómez is defeated, Mr. López Obrador will probably point to the closely fought contest as a clear indication of the P.R.I.’s vulnerabilities and use his party’s strong showing as a springboard for the 2018 presidential race.

For the P.R.I., a win for Mr. del Mazo, a former congressman and mayor, is essential for the party’s hopes of maintaining control of the presidency and sustaining its national dominance.

Mr. del Mazo is a product of the party’s machinery in the State of Mexico, and a scion of P.R.I. royalty: His father and grandfather had been governors of the state, and Mr. Peña Nieto, who previously served as the state’s governor, is his cousin.

If the P.R.I. was to be defeated in its traditional stronghold, it would be a deep embarrassment for Mr. Peña Nieto and a crisis for the party.

Voters were also casting ballots on Sunday in governors’ races in the states of Coahuila and Nayarit, though national and international attention was focused on the State of Mexico where the potential implications were greater.

For P.R.I. supporters in the State of Mexico, it was a day of unusual tension.

“I’m afraid,” said Dolores Alvarado, 67, a school cafeteria worker in the municipality of Ecatepec, who was planning to vote for Mr. del Mazo. “It’s better to stick with the devil you know than an unfamiliar one.”

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Delfina Gómez Álvarez of the National Regeneration Movementand a candidate to be the governor of the State of Mexico. Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

For voters leaning toward other candidates, their best chance ever of unseating the P.R.I. was palpable.

“Today there is hope; I think there really is a chance, because people are fed up,” said Salvador Albino, 47, a chauffeur for an affluent family who was planning to vote in the municipality of Naucalpan. “We need something different, we need something new.”

The state wraps around Mexico City and, with more than 16 million inhabitants, it has absorbed most of the region’s population growth in recent decades. In some ways it is a microcosm of the country, embodying its extreme socioeconomic inequality, soaring corruption and rampant crime.

These problems have been a drag on Mr. del Mazo’s campaign, which has also been burdened by the unpopular performance of Mr. Peña Nieto.

During the campaign, Ms. Gómez and the other opposition candidates have repeatedly sought to cast the race for governor of the State of Mexico as a referendum on the P.R.I.’s overall leadership.

They urged voters to break the party’s dynastic control as the best way of ridding the state — and by extension, the nation — of corruption and finally curbing rampant violence.

In a poll published last week in the Reforma newspaper, a majority of respondents said it was time for another party to run the state, and nearly half said they would “never” vote for Mr. del Mazo.

But Mr. del Mazo stands to gain from the fractured opposition: In addition to Ms. Gómez, there are several other challengers on the ballot, including Josefina Vázquez Mota, of the conservative National Action Party, and Juan Zepeda, of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, though both polled well behind the front-runners.

Source: NYT > World

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