The party that ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century claimed victory in a presidential election on Sunday as exit polls and early official results showed its candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, with a clear advantage over his rivals.
The telegenic candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had about 38 percent support and a lead of least 6 percentage points over his nearest rival, according to an official "quick count" by election authorities, putting the PRI on course to return to power after 12 years in opposition.
"Mexicans have given our party another chance. We are going to honor it with results," Pena Nieto told supporters in the capital shortly after the quick count was announced.
Departing President Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, congratulated Pena Nieto and promised to work with him during the transition.
But the second-placed leftist challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador refused to concede defeat. "The last word hasn't been spoken yet," he told supporters.
Josefina Vazquez Mota of the PAN trailed in third with no more than 26 percent of the vote, the official quick count said. It was published by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) and based on a representative sample of results from some 7,600 polling booths across the country.
Exit polls broadcast earlier by three of Mexico's main television networks showed Pena Nieto with a lead between 5 and 11 percentage points.
The PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years until losing power in 2000, has staged a comeback in the last six years behind Pena Nieto. An effective campaigner, he has promised to boost economic growth, reduce violent crime, open state-owned oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investors, raise tax revenue and liberalize the labor market.
(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Ioan Grillo and David Alire Garcia; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kieran Murray)
(Source : Reuters)