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In returning PRI to power, Mexicans put faith in young democracy (+video)

Enrique Peña Nieto won Sunday's presidential vote, returning the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to office. Mexicans are betting their democracy is strong enough to warrant giving the once-authoritarian party another chance.

Enrique Peña Nieto declared preliminary winner in Mexico
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After falling in 2000, the party that ruled Mexico for 71 years consecutively, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is back in power. It's a barometer of Mexicans' faith in their democracy: the once-authoritarian party, they believe, is today best positioned to bring back stability – and must govern under new checks and balances.

Its candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, won Mexico's presidential election by about a five-point margin, according to preliminary counts, beating Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Josefina Vazquez Mota of the right-leaning, ruling National Action Party (PAN).

"Mexicans have given our party another chance. We are going to honor it with results," said Mr. Peña Nieto, a former governor of the State of Mexico, late Sunday night.

By a comfortable margin, Mexican voters seemed willing to risk that the future of their country could come to resemble its past – when the PRI kept relative stability with an authoritarian grip, handing out favors in return for loyalty, winning elections by rigging votes.

The reasons that Mexicans are willing to take such a bet after their long march from authoritarianism are contradictory. Some believe the party, with its youthful candidate, has changed; some don't believe in any political class but think the PRI is the best that they've got.

But most Mexicans appear willing to trust their democracy: They might not be sure what the PRI will do once it's in office again, but they do believe that in the 12 years since it has been out, society has changed in dramatic ways. The president no longer holds vast powers. With the opening of its economy, Mexico has also had to open its political system. And from a stronger federal electoral institute to the presence of influential civil society organizations, there is no way the party can get up to its old antics, they say.

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