Mexico’s most populous state turned its back on decades of single-party rule, deciding to move forward with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling Morena party over the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party.
The preliminary forecast from electoral authorities Sunday night indicated a victory for Delfina Gómez in the State of Mexico that was confirmed a short time later by Alejandra del Moral’s concession speech. Official ballot counting continued through the night.
The result was a new low for the PRI, which governed Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years until losing power in 2000 and had ruled the State of Mexico for even longer until its loss Sunday.
A representative sampling of voting stations just hours after polls closed indicated Gómez was likely to win between 52.1% and 54.2% of the ballots, compared with 43% to 45.2% for del Moral, according to the National Electoral Institute. It said the sampling forecast had at least 95% certainty.
By midnight with more than half of ballots counted, the margin was holding.
“There is going to be a different governance,” Gómez said late Sunday night before cheering supporters in the state capital of Toluca. The state's first female governor-to-be stressed her commitment to the mothers of missing people and victims of femicide, and called for the public to denounce corruption.
The PRI-led coalition did hold onto the governorship in the sparsely populated northern border state of Coahuila, where with 80% of ballots counted, the PRI coalition candidate Manolo Jiménez led by 35 points over the Morena challenger.
But losing the State of Mexico was a heavy blow to its political fortunes.
The contest was closely watched, too, because of its potential implications for next year’s presidential elections. Even without having selected its nominee yet, Morena is considered the frontrunner in that national election and will be even more so with control of the State of Mexico.
The State of Mexico hugs Mexico City on three sides, encompassing urban sprawl and rural ranches, as well as stunning inequality, violence and corruption. For decades it has been the heart of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Political scientist Georgina de la Fuente of the Tecnologico de Monterrey university noted that Sunday's results highlight several things: the PRI has been defeated, though perhaps not as soundly as expected; Morena is not invincible; and parties are going to have to reconfigure their agreements. She added that the smooth elections also confirmed the effectiveness of Mexico's electoral system, whose authorities had come under heavy fire from López Obrador.
The loss of the State of Mexico could spell the end of the PRI's political relevance on a national stage, a stunning reversal for a party that ruled Mexico uninterrupted for seven decades.
Turnout was only about half of eligible voters in the State of Mexico.
“It doesn't seem like the elections have excited” people, said Miguel Agustín López Moreno, a political scientist and social worker in Ecatepec, one of the state's largest municipalities. He was uncertain the situation for residents would change significantly, attributing the party's success in large part to the amount of resources it invested in the state.
Adair Ortiz Herrera, a 21-year-old information systems student from Coyotepec, a rural area in the northern part of the state, said before the results were known Sunday that he was sure “a new direction” was coming. “My vote is to end the current government's hegemony,” he said.