MEXICO MOVING TOWARD TWO-PARTY SYSTEM
By IOAN GRILLO, Associated Press Writer
July 10, 2006
CITY - It may not be clear who won
the presidency, but the July 2 election vividly demonstrated that Mexico
is shifting toward a two-party system, with parties of the left and right holding the most seats in Congress.
The new battle lines have
exposed regional and class differences that haven't been expressed so openly in Mexico
in nearly a century, suggesting lawmakers will be increasingly polarized on key issues.
But the emerging order may
also make it easier for a ruling party to form a majority; the current three-party system has resulted in congressional gridlock.
"The future of a two-party
system benefits Mexico," said Carlos Navarrete,
who won a Senate seat for the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "We will move to a situation like in Spain, where power is sometimes held by a strong center-right
government and sometimes by a strong center-left administration."
The governing National Action
Party's electoral representative, Jorge Zermeno, said late Sunday that his party won the most seats — 206 — in
the 500-member lower house. Democratic Revolution has 127 seats, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has 103, and
minor parties have the 64 remaining seats.
In the Senate, National
Action received the largest percentage of votes at 33.5 percent, followed by Democratic Revolution with 29 percent and the
PRI with 28 percent.
The divide was even sharper
in the fight for the presidency, which will be decided by the courts.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador won 16 states, most in the center and underdeveloped south, by promising to put the nation's 50 million poor first.
Conservative Felipe Calderon, who pledged to protect jobs, capital and investment, also won in 16 states — most in the
industrialized north and west.
PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo
tried to find a middle ground, criticizing what he called the "radical left and the intolerant right." But he was trounced
at the polls, losing in every state.
Calderon won the official
count by fewer than 244,000 votes, Mexico's
closest presidential race ever.
Lopez Obrador is demanding
a manual recount of all 41 million ballots. Just before midnight Sunday, his party gave the nation's top electoral court nine
boxes containing alleged evidence of electoral fraud and dirty campaign practices.
On Monday, Fox's spokesman,
Ruben Aguilar, said the president will not meet with either candidate until the court declares a winner.
Several nations have already congratulated Calderon
on his apparent victory and the European Union sent its regards Monday, despite Lopez Obrador's request
that they wait until the court rules.
If the courts confirm Calderon's
razor-thin victory, he will have to rely on votes from rival parties to pass legislation. Democratic Revolution has said it
is firmly against Calderon's plans to overhaul tax, energy and labor laws, which the conservative says are necessary to modernize
But Calderon will also have
a stronger conservative base to work with than did Fox. The current lower house has only 148 National Action representatives
and most of Fox's major proposals were blocked by PRI and Democratic Revolution lawmakers.
With 206 National Action
seats, Calderon could pass laws with the support of just 45 representatives from the PRI or minor parties.
Democratic Revolution activists
are confident of winning over most PRI supporters, who they say will abandon their decaying party. Many PRI voters are poor
peasant farmers and unionized workers drawn to the leftist platform.
The PRI, which united Mexico after the revolution by accepting all ideologies, from
unions to business leaders, held the presidency for 71 years until its loss to Fox in 2000. Crippled by infighting, the party
has since struggled with its future, and it faces an even tougher battle as Democratic Revolution emerges as the main opposition
While Democratic Revolution
may not win the presidency, its congressional gains are an important development in a region that has elected a string of
leftist governments, said historian Lorenzo Meyer.
"I don't think a Calderon
victory would mean that the leftist wave in Latin America is coming to an end," he said.
"We're seeing a kind of liberation and growth of the left in Mexico.
Mexicans are now willing to say they openly support a leftist party. What is emerging is a Mexico that is polarized between left and right."