IN THE NEWS #434 - Mexican Election

By Paul Thompson

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

On Sunday voters in Mexico will choose a new president. And, for the first time in seventy-one years, there is a chance that an opposition candidate will win. Vicente Fox of the National Action Party is in a close race with Francisco Labastida, the candidate of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Both of the leading presidential candidates say they will work to strengthen Mexico's economy and create more jobs. They say they will fight crime, including the trade in illegal drugs. They say they will fight illegal activities by government officials. And, they promise to support education programs, help the poor and increase trade. Mr. Fox is for an open border with the United States.

Public opinion studies show each candidate supported by about forty percent of the voters. Another candidate, Cuauhtemoc (kwow-TEH-mok) Cardenas of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, has about eighteen percent. The winner will replace President Ernesto Zedillo who leaves office in December.

Mr. Fox has been a state governor and an official of the American company Coca-Cola. Mr. Labastida has spent almost forty years in government. Most recently he was Mexico's interior secretary.

Mexico has fifty-nine-million voters. Opinion studies show that support for the opposition comes mostly from younger, educated Mexicans who are successful and live in cities. Support for the ruling party is strongest among older Mexicans who still vote for the only political party they have ever known.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party has ruled Mexico since Nineteen-Twenty-Nine. The party, known as the PRI ("pre"), has been accused in the past of using unfair and illegal measures to stay in power. In recent weeks, Mexican newspapers have reported that the party has used government workers to campaign against the opposition. The party has also been accused of trying to gain votes among the poor by giving away clothes washing machines and other goods.

Several reports have said that supporters of the ruling party have tried to force some people to vote for Mr. Labastida. Government officials and Mr. Labastida deny putting pressure on anyone. PRI leaders and election officials promise that the vote will be the most honest in Mexico's history. Independent election officials will supervise the voting. And, there will be hundreds of foreign observers.

The president will not be the only one elected Sunday. Mexican voters will also choose a new Congress. The House of Representatives has five-hundred members. The Senate has one-hundred-twenty-eight. Opinion studies suggest that the opposition could make gains in the Congress. Currently Mexico's ruling party controls the Senate and is the largest party in the House.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English