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Why Mexico and Paraguay are embracing controversial parties of the past

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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.

In both cases, it's given the old parties the chance to say: “We know how to do things, we are born to rule, you have to elect us back,” says Mr. Hidalgo. “It's pretty ominous. It means there is the case for having one party in government all the time.”

'A hard reality to swallow'

The latest polls in Mexico show that Peña Nieto has anywhere from a 10 to 17-point lead over his nearest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. The conservative ruling party, whose ticket is headed by Josefina Vazquez Mota, is trailing behind both according to most surveys.

The PRI, which was once dubbed the “perfect dictatorship,” is widely accused of corrupt practices and cronyism during its reign. When it lost presidential elections in 2000, with the victory of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), the change in power was hailed across Mexico. So it comes as a surprise to some that after 12 years with the PAN in power, Mexicans are supporting the party they once feared they'd never be able to vote out.

But the PRI says it is a reformed party, one that is committed to democratic ideals of the 21st century. “It is the PRI of today,” says Eduardo Sanchez, the party spokesperson.

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