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For Mexicans, relief that next president won't have free rein

Peña Nieto's win restores power to the PRI, which long held an authoritarian grip on Mexico before being ousted 12 years ago. But more than a decade of democracy has changed things.

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Mexico's President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto meets with the foreign press in Mexico City on Monday, July 2.

Claudia Daut/Reuters

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Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is the clear victor in the nation's presidential race. But the candidate, of the historic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), won with a much smaller mandate than pollsters had anticipated.

With 94 percent of votes counted, he has about a six-point margin. Surveys had him anywhere from 10 to 15 points ahead of his nearest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

 Now Mr. Lopez Obrador, the leftist who famously led a six-week sit-in in downtown Mexico City to contest the razor-thin defeat in his first presidential bid in 2006, is saying he won't concede defeat.

 No one expects another unpopular protest, but he has said he is waiting until the absolute final results are in to make a statement – even though Mexican President Felipe Calderon has congratulated Mr. Peña Nieto and the National Action Party (PAN) candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, promptly stepped down.

For Mexicans worried about what the return of the PRI means for Mexico's democracy, after the PRI ran the country for 71 years as a single party and with an authoritarian grip, this is a welcome sign that Peña Nieto won't have an entirely free rein. It is also unclear that he will have a working majority in Congress, which means the party will have to negotiate hard with the others to push through tough reforms that Peña Nieto promised and that Mexico desperately needs.

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