Mexican opposition party elects new leader

Monday, March 17, 2008

Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez

Mexico's main opposition party, the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), voted for its new leader Sunday. Preliminary results received on Monday indicate that the election was won by Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez, former Head of Government of the Federal District.

The party's Electoral Committee cited figures given by polling group Consulta Mitofsky, which showed Encinas with 49.4 percent of vote and his main opponent, Jesús Ortega Martínez, with 44.6 percent. Although official results won't be released until Wednesday, much of the country's media has already declared Encinas the winner.

Roy Campos, president of Consulta Mitofsky, said that Encinas would remain in the lead after the rest of the votes were counted. "The trend is very clear," Encinas said in a television interview.

Sunday's vote was split between those who strongly oppose Felipe Calderón's presidency, like Encinas, and party moderates who favor negotiating with the government, like Ortega. The party has been this way ever since the 2006 presidential election, when Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador contested the results, believing he had defeated Calderón, and declared himself the "legitimate" president.

Encinas, who once served in Obrador's cabinet and doesn't recognize Calderón as president, said the party needs "a very important redesign" to avoid these kinds of disputes. Both sides accused the other of voting irregularities in Sunday's election, including vote-buying, intimidation, and improper handling of ballots.

Notimex, the government news agency, reported that a fight broke out at one polling place in Mexico City, and that several other stations had to be shut down.