(AP) – On Sunday, Mexico holds its second presidential election since the 2000 vote that unseated the Institutional Revolutionary Party after more than seven decades in power. The candidate of the former ruling party, or PRI, is widely expected to win the presidency, opening a new chapter in the story of Mexico’s young democracy. Former Mexico State governor Enrique Pena Nieto says his party has abandoned its legacy of corruption and repression of dissent, and will govern in an open and pluralistic manner. The argument appears to be working among Mexicans looking for a change after nearly six years of a bloody militarized offensive against drug cartels and generally lackluster economic performance. But many Mexicans fear a return of the PRI, a sentiment that has spawned a vocal student-led movement against Pena Nieto and his party.
A glance at the upcoming national election:
_ 79,454,802 Mexicans are eligible to vote at more than 143,151 polling places for president, 500 members of the lower house of Congress and 128 senators. Voters will also select Mexico City’s mayor and governors in the states of Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco and Yucatan. The president is elected for a single six-year term and cannot stand for re-election.
_ Polling stations open at 8 a.m. (9 a.m. EDT; 1300GMT) and close at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT; 2300GMT). The first exit polls are expected by 8 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT; 0100 GMT Monday). The country’s Federal Electoral Institute will release results from a quick count of selected polling places at 11:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m. EDT; 0445 GMT).
A glance at the candidates:
_ Enrique Pena Nieto, 45. The telegenic former governor married to a soap-opera star has led polls throughout the race and the final pre-election polls showed him with a lead of 8 to 17 percentage points. Opponents say he has received behind-the-scenes support from disliked former leaders of his party, and from Mexico’s two market-dominating television networks, allegations he denies. He has suggested allowing private investment in Mexico’s state-run petroleum company and deemphasizing arrests of drug-cartel bosses in favor of reducing violent crimes that most affect ordinary citizens.
_ Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 58. The candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party is a former Mexico City mayor and leader of the country’s main leftist movement. He led massive street protests in 2006 and declared himself to be the legitimate president of the country after narrowly losing to current President Felipe Calderon. The protests cost him support among many Mexicans, and he softened his rhetoric in the three-month campaign that ended Wednesday, saying he wanted to build a “Republic of Love” marked by peace and reconciliation. He hardened his attacks on the PRI in recent weeks, however, and has been running second, well behind Pena Nieto. Lopez Obrador says he wants to keep Pemex state property, make Mexico self-sufficient in energy and food production, and fund new social spending and jobs programs by cutting waste and corruption, not raising taxes.
_ Josefina Vazquez Mota, 51. The candidate of the National Action Party is a former secretary of education and social development in the conservative administrations of President Vicente Fox and his successor, Calderon. She has struggled to distinguish herself from Calderon while maintaining the support of the party’s power structure. The first days of her campaign were marred by organizational mishaps and speaking gaffes, and she has slid into third place in most polls. She has pledged to continue Calderon’s war on drug cartels, increase penalties for public corruption and ease rules on hiring and firing employees in order to spur economic growth.
_Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, 57. The candidate of the New Alliance Party, which has links to the powerful teacher’s union. His support remains in the single digits, although it saw some growth after strong debate performances.
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