(Updates with result of election, comment from PAN leader,
By Dave Graham
MEXICO CITY May 18 The leader of Mexico's
biggest opposition party comfortably won re-election on Sunday,
boosting President Enrique Pena Nieto's efforts to enact
measures to open up the oil industry and increase competition in
the telecoms sector.
The center-right National Action Party (PAN), has been badly
divided by an internal power struggle centering on how far the
party should cooperate with Pena Nieto's Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI), which lacks a majority in Congress.
In the election, PAN leader Gustavo Madero, who has worked
with Pena Nieto to pass reforms, defeated his younger rival
Ernesto Cordero, a former finance minister keen to push the
party in a direction more critical of the government.
Pena Nieto has relied on PAN votes to help push through
laws, including a bill in December to end Mexico's 75-year-old
oil and gas monopoly that is the central plank of his efforts to
end years of underperformance by Latin America's second biggest
The two parties also worked together on a major overhaul of
the telecoms and broadcasting industries dominated by
multi-billionaire Carlos Slim and broadcaster Televisa
Both reforms still need rules and regulations to be set out
in so-called secondary legislation, but disputes in Congress,
partly due to PAN infighting, have delayed the approval process.
After preliminary results showed Madero won nearly 57
percent of votes cast by PAN members, the party leader quickly
turned to the legislation pending in Congress.
"What we must do from today is approve the best secondary
laws possible to carry on making Mexico more modern and more
democratic," Madero told cheering supporters in Mexico City.
The centrist PRI had hoped to pass the energy and
telecommunications secondary laws by the end of April at the
latest, and now has its sights on June.
Cordero, who took just over 43 percent of the vote, said he
would respect the result and called on the PAN to return to
being a "responsible and firm" opposition to the PRI.
During a bad-tempered election campaign, Cordero frequently
accused Madero of selling the party out to Pena Nieto. However,
Cordero supported the energy reform and other major bills.
Madero argues he is restoring the PAN's fortunes by forcing
Pena Nieto to adopt his party's vision of economic reform. That
strategy yielded fruit with the energy law, which ended up much
more liberal than the one the president first proposed.
Federico Berrueto, director general of polling firm GCE,
said the outcome of the vote looked like the PRI and the PAN
would be able to return to the spirit of negotiation that
existed before the PAN got distracted by the election.
(Additional reporting by Noe Torres; Editing by Sophie Hares
and Robert Birsel)