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Tabasco dispute has implications in looming fight for control of PRI.

MEXICO CITY--The Dec. 29 decision by Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal to annul the Oct. 15 Tabasco elections has thrown the state into chaos and may have significant implications in the looming fight for control of the Mexico's largest political party.

The ruling--just three days before the new governor was to take office led to fist fights on the floor of the state legislature and led competing factions of legislators to name two different interim governors.

Even before the October elections, there were complaints about the process. The opposition accused the state government and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of vote buying. They also charged that a government-owned television station gave 80% of its news coverage to PRI candidate Manuel Andrade, who won the election by less than 8,000 votes, about 1% of the total.

After the state electoral council certified Andrade as the winner, the opposition, led by the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), submitted a list of complaints to the state Electoral Tribunal, which were rejected in a unanimous vote.

The opposition then appealed to the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which, surprisingly nullified the election in a divided four to two vote, with one abstention.

The PRI has protested the decision, maintaining that although the Federal Electoral Tribunal has the power to annul votes in specific polling places, the Tabasco state Constitution does not allow the annulment of an entire election. Moreover, the PRI pointed out that, although the tribunal annulled the election for governor, it certified the votes for members of Congress and mayors that took place the same day at the same polling places. PRI leaders say this shows the magistrates were responding to political pressure rather than evidence of irregularities.

The decision set off a fierce political fight. Roberto Madrazo, governor of Tabasco through Dec. 31, moved to ensure that a man loyal to him would remain in power. He convened an extraordinary session of the state legislature at 5:45 a.m. Dec. 30. PRI deputies used their majority to amend the state Constitution to allow the designation of an interim governor by a simple majority in Congress rather than the two thirds vote that was required before. At 2:00 a.m. Dec. 31, the state legislature designated Madrazo loyalist Enrique Priego as interim governor.

The opposition claimed Priego's appointment was illegal and on Jan. 2 named Adan Augusto Lopez Hernandez, secretary general of the PRI in Tabasco. Although he is aprista and was Andrade's campaign manager, Lopez Hernandez is not an ally of Madrazo. The PRI claimed this new designation was also illegal.

Government Secretary (Interior Minister) Santiago Creel has been negotiating with state political leaders to try to break the impasse. President Vicente Fox has said he will not intervene unless there is a breakdown in public order. However, as the conflict drags on, there are reports the government may step in.

The battle for Tabasco could have significant political repercussions. Madrazo, who made an unsuccessful run for the PRI presidential nomination in 1999, has announced he plans to run for the PRI's national presidency. Although the PRI's national leadership is officially supporting Madrazo and Priego, many senior PRI members would like Madrazo to fail or at least be embarrassed by the fight so that his chances to gain control over the national PRI are damaged.
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Title Annotation:Institutional Revolutionary Party; controversy over the election in Mexico's state of Tabasco
Publication:America's Insider
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Jan 4, 2001
Words:557
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