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Mexican voters go to the polls

The ruling National Action Party squares off against the Institutional Revolutionary Party for control of the lower house of Congress, the main battle in hundreds of races across the nation.

July 06, 2009|Ken Ellingwood

MEXICO CITY — With a sagging economy and bloody drug war as a backdrop, voters across Mexico dealt a blow Sunday to the conservative party of President Felipe Calderon as they elected members of Congress, a handful of governors and hundreds of state and local officials.

Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, conceded defeat in the 500-seat lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, after exit polls and early returns showed the once-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, with a solid lead.

The PAN, with 206 seats in the outgoing chamber, lacked a majority. Sunday's results would leave the PRI -- which currently holds 106 seats -- short of a majority too.

Most analysts predicted the vote would leave things pretty much as they are by forcing a compromise between the PAN and the PRI, whose leaders want to show voters they are a mature, constructive opposition ready to rule again.

"They are going to make agreements," said Alfonso Zarate, a political analyst in Mexico City. "Politicians, especially Mexican politicians, have a healthy dose of pragmatism."

The vote capped a campaign in which no single issue dominated. The PAN played up Calderon's 2 1/2 -year crackdown on drug traffickers while largely skirting Mexico's economic downturn.

Many disgruntled voters had threatened to nullify their ballots by drawing a giant X or marking all the candidates. Some analysts had predicted that only a third of the 78 million registered voters would cast ballots, an all-time low.

The election results could make it more difficult for Calderon and the PAN to pass legislation on tax reform as well as laws envisioned as part of his offensive against organized crime.

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ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.

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