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Victory in Tabasco may mean less than it appears for PRI.

MEXICO CITY -- Last weekend's victory by the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) in Yucatan state's gubernatorial elections is more a tribute to the party's organizational strength than an indication that the PRI's sagging fortunes have been reversed.

Manuel Andrade, the hand-picked successor of former Governor Roberto Madrazo, won the seat with 50.5% of the vote, defeating leftist PRD candidate Raul Ojeda. It is the first electoral victory of significance for the PRI since President Vicente Fox ousted the party from national power last July after more than 70 years. The PRI has lost a string of state elections since then and is beset by internal divisions and falling popularity.

It appears as though Andrade's victory is a triumph for the so-called "dinosaurs" of the PRI, a faction that is identified with the party's old-school, conservative faction. The dinosaurs have rejected calls for democratic reforms within the PRI, economic changes and a more accountable style of government. The victory in Tabasco was a triumph of Madrazo's ability to keep the PRI's organization intact. The win ensures that Madrazo will remain one of the leading lights within the party. It also will bolster his expected run for president in 2006 by shoring up his position within the party.

The election in Tabasco state was a rerun of voting last October, in which Andrade also won a narrow victory. However, federal courts ruled that his victory was tainted by corruption and ordered another round. There were few reports of corruption this time as the election was closely monitored.

PRI leaders publicly said the results demonstrated that ordinary Mexicans have regained confidence in the PRI. However, most analysts say that the victory by the dinosaur wing of the party, as opposed to the more reform-minded "technocrat" wing, will help create obstacles to internal reform. Because Madrazo and the dinosaurs of the party can claim victory, it will be harder for the technocrats to argue in favor of reform.

The PRD is the big loser in the election. The ruling PAN party did not run a candidate and many analysts had expected the PRD to run a strong race, given the poverty in the state, complaints about environmental damage by state oil company memex and the presence of a large number of indigenous voters.

In addition, a number of reform-minded Pristas refused to support Andrade. Although the rebels, who called themselves the Jose Maria Pino Suarez Group, were few in number, many analysts thought that even a small division within the PRI would siphon enough support away from Andrade to tip the balance toward Ojeda. The fact that this did not happen high-lights the PRD's soft support and organizational weakness.

The PRD has been unable to build a broad coalition to oppose the PAN and Fox. In addition, it also competes with the PRI for support among left-leaning voters and has been unable to make a convincing case to persuade many to switch parties.

The PRI is hoping the victory will help its campaign for the governorship of Michoacan state in November. The party is running a young technocrat for the seat, Anfredo Anaya Gudino. A millionaire businessman who has not held public office in eight years, Anaya was selected in a kind of primary, the first time the PRI simply did not pick its candidate. Officials hope the fact that he is not a professional politician will help convince voters to support him. However, he faces a tough challenge from PRD Senator Lazaro Cardenas Batel, a son of popular presidential candidate and PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. Michoacan was the only state the elder Cardenas won in last year's presidential elections.
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Title Annotation:Institutional Revolutionary Party
Publication:America's Insider
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Aug 16, 2001
Words:606
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