MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The ruling party of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto lost several historical strongholds on Sunday in an election largely seen as a referendum on corruption, impunity, and violence across the country.
Results showed the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, losing six of 12 gubernatorial races in the country, with contenders on both the right and left making gains. The PRI formerly held nine of the 12 governorships.
The PRI was headed for defeat in Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Durango, Quintana Roo and Tamaulipas, and faced the prospect of a particularly tough loss in oil-rich Veracruz, where a tight race was widely seen as a harbinger ahead of 2018 presidential elections.
With three-fourths of ballots counted in Veracruz, the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) coalition held nearly 34 percent of the vote on Monday afternoon.
In second place, the PRI claimed about 30 percent of the vote, suffering a setback blamed on outgoing PRI Governor Javier Duarte, who has been assailed for an increase in violent crime across the state.
The center-left National Regeneration Movement (Morena), led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, took some 27 percent of the vote, benefiting from voter fatigue toward established political parties. Morena also had strong showings in Oaxaca and Zacatecas, suggesting it could overtake the PRD to become the third largest political party in Mexico.
The results are a boost for Lopez Obrador’s expected presidential bid.
The PRI had never lost Veracruz, Mexico’s third most populous state, or Tamaulipas, Durango or Quintana Roo in gubernatorial contests prior to the election.
On Monday, the PAN looked set to take Tamaulipas, while PAN-PRD alliances were likely to win in Quintana Roo and Durango, where the opposition coalition had approximately 46 percent of the vote to the PRI’s 42 percent.
The results are likely to encourage the two leading opposition parties to keep forming coalitions to hold the ruling PRI and leftist Morena at bay going forward.
Ricardo Anaya, chairman of the PAN, said in a debate on Sunday that party alliances were in Mexico to stay.
Reporting by Natalie Schachar; Editing by Tom Brown