Mexico’s ruling party has won a key governor’s race in the country’s most populous state in a sign of momentum ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The victory of Delfina Gomez, a member of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), ended decades of gubernatorial rule in the state of Mexico by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
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Preliminary results from Sunday’s election showed Gomez defeated her PRI opponent by 8 percentage points in the state of 17 million people, underscoring MORENA’s prominence. Prior to the vote, MORENA already governed 22 of the country’s 32 states, either alone or with its allies.
“We defeated corruption and neglect,” Gomez, a former schoolteacher, told cheering supporters after the vote. “For the first time, we’ll have a government serving those who are most vulnerable.”
The result will make Gomez the first female governor of the state, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides and has become emblematic of Mexico’s inequality. Many residents of the state lack basic services despite living alongside some of the country’s wealthiest areas.
Home to the Teotihuacan pyramids, the state is a hub for industrial giants such as Nestle and Ford. It accounts for about 9.1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
It is also one of the country’s most violent regions with more than 900 murders registered in the area between January and April of this year out of a total of about 9,900 nationwide.
The defeat in PRI’s historical bastion bodes well for MORENA ahead of a presidential election set to be held on June 2 next year.
Lopez Obrador, who under Mexican law will not be able to run again, has instructed his party to stay united going into the presidential campaign while turning on former colleagues who have broken with MORENA.
The president has been largely credited with MORENA’s surging popularity since he took office in 2018. His popularity currently hovers about 60 percent.
Still, his moves to pit the state against private enterprise and confrontational approach to checks on his power have polarised voters.
In a separate gubernatorial vote in the northern border state of Coahuila on Sunday, the PRI crushed MORENA after the president’s party descended into infighting, giving rise to rival candidates.
The PRI, which held uninterrupted presidential power in Mexico from 1929 to 2000 with a brief rebound from 2012 to 2018, has yet to be defeated by any party in Coahuila, which has about a fifth of the population of the state of Mexico.