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Mexican parties dispute state election victory

AFP-JIJI

Mexico’s ruling party and the conservative opposition on Sunday each declared victory in a key race for governor after regional elections in 14 states that saw acts of violence and accusations of misdeeds.

The governor’s seat in Baja California state, held by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) opposition for the past 24 years, was the biggest prize in the regional polls and its result could affect a national reforms pact.

The state is significant in Mexican political history: When the PAN won the governorship in 1989, it broke decades of dominance by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Underscoring the importance of the results, the heads of both parties were in Tijuana, the bustling city at the U.S. border, to declare victory minutes after polls closed.

PRI chief Cesar Camacho said voters had “decided by a majority that their next governor will be Fernando Castro Trenti.”

Moments later, PAN President Gustavo Madero said, “Our candidate (Francisco) ‘Kiko’ Vega is the next governor of Baja California.”

With 44 percent of the ballots counted shortly after midnight, Vega had 47.8 percent of the votes compared to 43.3 percent for Castro Trenti. Defeat for the PAN would be another blow for the conservatives, which made history in 2000 when it won the presidency, ending the PRI’s 71-year dominance. The PAN, however, has faced internal struggles since losing the presidency last year.