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Cardenas Apparent Victor in Mexico

Government: Son and grandson of political legends boosts PRD's hopes by taking lead in Michoacan state governor's race.


MEXICO CITY — Lazaro Cardenas, the son and grandson of Mexican political legends, revived his family's political dynasty this week with an apparent victory in the Michoacan state governor's race.

Preliminary election results released Monday gave a boost to Cardenas' Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD. The leftist party has been rocked by political infighting and loss of influence since Vicente Fox of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, won the presidency last year.

The results also delivered another blow to the long-entrenched Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had held power in Michoacan since 1929.

A government "flash count" of ballots gave Cardenas the victory with 41.7% of the vote to 36.5% for second-place candidate Alfredo Anaya of the PRI. Salvador Lopez, the PAN candidate, came in a distant third with 18.6%.

Both Cardenas and Anaya claimed victory Sunday in the bitterly contested race. Officials expect to finish counting votes Wednesday and release the results next Sunday.

Victory May Help Restore Family Magic

Cardenas' grandfather, also named Lazaro, is a towering figure in Mexican history as a general during the 1910 revolution and later as president. He instituted land reform and, in 1938, expropriated foreign oil interests to found Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil company known as Pemex.

The gubernatorial candidate's father, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founded the PRD in 1989 and has run unsuccessfully three times for president, finishing third last year. The father was Michoacan's governor from 1980 to 1986 as a member of the PRI before abandoning the party.

Opponents say Cuauhtemoc Cardenas' poor showing in last year's presidential race demonstrates that he lacks the national appeal to take the PRD to a new level. His son's apparent victory Sunday should restore some of the family's magic, observers said.

"Although they did it in a precarious manner, the victory is very important for the PRD and helps them stay competitive," said Alfonso Zarate, a political scientist and editor of the Mexican Political Newsletter. The PRD lost seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate last year, he noted.

Jean Francois Prud'homme, a political science professor at Colegio de Mexico here, said a victory would secure a long-held party goal of taking power in Michoacan, the Cardenas family base. "So this is something like justice at last," he said.

The younger Cardenas had been elected national deputy and senator.

Things Could Be Worse for PRI, Analyst Says

Although the election results appear to be a serious loss for the PRI, the party--which last year lost the presidency for the first time in 71 years--heads into its national convention next week with the consolation that things could be worse, Zarate said.

"The PRI could have collapsed after last year, but thanks to the errors of Fox and lack of direction inside the PAN, it is still holding its ground," Zarate said.

The PRD holds its national convention in March, and the apparent victory of the younger Cardenas should make it easier for his father to set the agenda and promote his ally, Rosario Robles, as party president, analysts said.

But the party's leadership picture will become more complicated over the longer term, Zarate said. If the younger Cardenas performs well as governor, he could join a crowded field for the PRD presidential nomination in 2006. Robles, Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Gov. Ricardo Monreal of Zacatecas state also are expected to seek the nomination.

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