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

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“You have more counterbalances,”says Maureen Meyer, Mexico analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. “You have a civil society that has been building its influence. You have stronger political parties in general.”

The PRI “won’t be able to go back to business as usual,” she adds.

One of the biggest sources of power for the PRI came from its ability to control the vote. In 1988, the party was widely accused of having rigged the elections, after a leftist candidate was coming out front. But in the wake of the outcry the government began the process of overhauling its electoral system, reforms that were strengthened throughout the 90s. By the time the PRI lost in 2000 for the first time, Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) was considered one of the world's best.

The confidence in the electoral body was tested after Mexico's last presidential election in 2006, when Mr. Lopez Obrador, in his first presidential bid, declared fraud and refused to recognize election results, after losing the race by less than a percentage point. And the feeling that the election was “stolen” is still strong among Lopez Obrador's supporters.

“Of course the vote was robbed in 2006,” says Hector Galvan, a young resident of Mexico City who works in human resources. “Everything is corruptible here.”

But the reputation of the IFE hasn't budged among electoral experts. “Not only is electoral fraud virtually impossible under the IFE, but Mexico designed and implemented within a 12-year period of time the most professional, independent, impartial electoral systems in the Americas and one of the best in the world,” says Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at American University in Washington and author of the book “The North American Idea.”

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