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Why Mexico and Paraguay are embracing controversial parties of the past

Both countries voted out single-party systems that ruled their nations for most of the 20th century. But now both are looking to bring back the very same systems they were so relieved to see fall.

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Paraguay's new leader, President Federico Franco, answers a question during an interview at the Presidential Palace in Asuncion, Paraguay, Thursday, June 28.

Jorge Saenz/AP

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Political outsiders and opposition candidates have been the winners in Latin America in the past decade, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Mexico and Paraguay. Both voted out single-party systems that ruled their nations for most of the 20th century.

But now both countries are looking to vote back in the same systems they were so relieved to see fall just a few administrations prior.

When Mexicans head to the polls this Sunday, they are, according to surveys, expected to favor Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had a grip on power here for 71 years until 2000. Then on the other side of the Americas the impeachment scandal surrounding Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, whose victory in 2008 broke 61 years of Colorado Party rule, has revealed deep dissatisfaction with his presidency. It has also highlighted the fact that the Colorados are poised to regain the presidency in 2013.

“[The Colorados] have won every single local election since they lost power,” says Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America analyst at the Cato Institute. “It's like the PRI of Mexico.”

In both countries, the rising popularity of the former ruling parties is a matter of expectations, which were sky high with the transition to democracy but deflated with the snail's pace of change. Some blame it on the inefficacy of new parties in power, others on the old power structures that are still deeply entrenched in both countries and that have blocked reform at every turn.

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