Mexicans prepare to choose a new leader

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 27 at 2:38 AM

MEXICO CITY — Voters in Mexico elect a new president Sunday, and a new poll by The Dallas Morning News and El Universal newspaper in Mexico shows frontrunner Enrique Pena Nieto has a double-digit lead over his opponents, with 41.2 percent of likely voters favoring the PRI party candidate.

According to the Dallas Morning News/El Universal poll, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the PRD party candidate, has 23.8 percent support, and Josefina Vasquez Mota 20.6 percent.

The campaigns have taken on a frenzied pace in the countdown to election day.

“He’s going to be our president, “said Rocio Corona as she left Pena Nieto’s massive rally at the Azteca soccer stadium with her sister and father.

Enrique Pena Nieto has been the frontrunner since he launched his campaign. His supporters are counting on the popular former governor, who is married to a Mexican soap opera star, to return the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power.

The PRI held the presidency for 71 years before losing the 2000 election to Vicente Fox of the conservative PAN party. The PAN held on to the presidency in 2006 when Felipe Calderon narrowly won the election.

Pena Nieto’s campaign is confident that the PRI’s well-oiled political machine will deliver the vote on Sunday.

In recent weeks, his challengers have been gaining some ground. The former mayor of Mexico City Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost the last presidential election in 2006, is once again rallying followers of the leftist PRD party.

He’s expected to fill Zocalo, Latin America’s largest public square, on Wednesday when he holds his final campaign event before Sundday’s election.

At her final campaign rally in Mexico City at the Plaza de Toros bullring, Josefina Vasquez Mota told her supporters, “You are my strength. You are the reason for my certain victory.”

The PAN (National Action Party) congresswoman is the first female running for Mexican president on a major party ticket. Her supporters hope she can halt a PRI return to power.

“It’s a return to the past: Bad government, corruption," Mario Bravo said. "Josefina is the best option."

In Mexico — as in the U.S. — the economy and jobs are top issues. But for many voters, security is the most pressing concern.

The devastating drug war has cost more than 50,000 lives during President Calderon’s administration.

A group of students who traveled from Ciudad Juarez was among those who cheered on Pena Nieto at his giant rally in Mexico’s capital. The border city across from El Paso has been battered by drug violence that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

“Pena Nieto is best for Ciudad Juarez and all of Mexico when it comes to the issue of organized crime,” said Abraham Zansores, a 19-year-old university student from Juarez.

But many voters in Mexico are still undecided. They’ll have a few campaign-free days to contemplate their choice. Mexican law mandates a "quiet" period beginning Thursday when all campaigning must cease.

“I’m one of those undecided,” said Jose Rodriguez, a cook at the Taqueria El Greco restaurant in Mexico City. “I’m waiting to pick a candidate after the campaigns come to a close,” he said.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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