- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

HERMOSILLO, Mexico — Mexicans awoke yesterday to a new political reality, after nationwide elections in which younger voters turned increasingly to small opposition parties.

The major winner was neither the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which until President Vicente Fox’s election victory in 2000 had ruled the country for 71 years, nor Mr. Fox’s conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Instead, the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) doubled the size of its delegation in the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies in the Mexican Congress.

“Once again, no single political force will have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies,” Mr. Fox said.

He added, “Once again, Mexicans have shown their commitment to democracy, and democracy has triumphed. The work begins now to reach a consensus among us.”

The national television network Televisa reported yesterday morning that the PRI had received 34.4 percent of the votes for the 300 directly elected deputies, the PAN 30.5 percent and the PRD 17.1 percent.

An additional 200 deputies are selected through proportional representation. When the complicated formula is applied, Televisa projected, the PRI should have 222 to 227 seats, an increase from 211.

The PAN, which had 206 seats, will drop to 148 to 158 seats. The PRD, which had 50 seats, will increase to 98 to 100 seats and become the deciding force in the lower house.

It won 13 of the 16 seats in the Federal District, Mexico City, projections show.

The Green Party will have 14 to 16 seats, and the Labor Party will have five to eight, about the same as they had before.

Voter turnout in Sunday’s elections, widely seen as a referendum on Mr. Fox’s first three years in office, was 41 percent, which prompted the president to comment: “We have to listen to those who did not express themselves at the polls. We all understand your silence.”

The PAN had another major setback with the loss of the governorship of the rich northern industrial state of Nuevo Leon, which it won for the first time in 1997.

Voters in Nuevo Leon were reported to be disillusioned by the failure of the PAN governor elected in 1997, Fernando Canales, to keep his campaign promises.

Mr. Canales resigned to become Mr. Fox’s economy minister in February. The PAN also lost the mayoral race in Monterrey, which it had won in 1994.

About the only cause for cheer for the PAN was winning the governorship of the north-central state of San Luis Potosi for the first time. Marcelo de los Santos defeated the PRI’s Luis Garcia 44 percent to 37 percent.

The PAN also held onto the governorship of Queretaro, which it first won in 1997, while the PRI held on to Colima and Campeche by comfortable margins.

In the most hotly contested governor’s race, in the northwestern border state of Sonora, the race was too close to call.

Sonora has always been controlled by the PRI, although the PAN has controlled the state capital, Hermosillo, since 1997 and retained it Sunday.

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