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Mexico’s constitution stipulates a single six-year term for the president.

Long accused by critics of crony capitalism and corruption and of having cut deals with organized criminals as a means of reducing violence during its past reign, the PRI seemed unlikely to re-emerge as the dominant player this year, but Mr. Pena Nieto has attempted to portray himself as the jewel at the center of a 12-year regrouping by the party.

He spent much of his campaign attempting to shift Mexico’s narrative from the drug war and toward a message of the nation’s potential for explosive growth in the high-end manufacturing and energy sectors.

His advisers took an early risk by betting that a focus on economic growth would carry more weight than anything else among drug-war-weary voters.

The U.S. has supported the militarized drug war in Mexico for the past five years. Although Mr. Pena Nieto has proclaimed his intention to uphold a muscular posture toward the cartels, it remains to be seen how Sunday’s election result will affect U.S.-Mexican relations.

The State Department declined to comment as voting commenced, although a spokesman told The Washington Times recently that U.S. officials “would expect to work closely with the next government, led by whatever political party, elected by the Mexican people.”

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.