Violent demonstrations and political killings threaten to disrupt mid-term elections in Mexico

The elections represent a referendum on the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who still has three years left in office

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The Independent US

A string of violent demonstrations and political killings threaten to disrupt today’s mid-term elections in Mexico, where a wave of disillusionment has left the ruling party at risk of losing several key seats.

The elections represent a referendum on the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who still has three years left in office. Mr Peña Nieto has been hampered in the past year by surging levels of drug-related violence. Most opinion polls suggest that his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its allies will retain their slim majority in Congress, but the party faces strong challenges across the country, where nine state governorships and hundreds of mayoral positions are at stake.

The elections come after one of the most violent campaign periods in recent Mexican history. At least eight candidates have been murdered since February. Much of the violence has been centred on the south-western states of Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Parents and classmates of 43 trainee teachers who disappeared in Guerrero last September have led a campaign to boycott the elections. Members of a radical teachers’ union have also tried to block the vote and attacked the Chiapas offices of a number of political parties on 5 June.

Two central battles that the PRI risks losing are in Nuevo Leon, one of Mexico’s most economically important states, where independent candidate Jaime Rodriguez is neck-and-neck with the ruling party in the polls; and Guadalajara, the nation’s second city, where Enrique Alfaro of the liberal Citizen’s Movement has a narrow lead.

“People are tired of traditional forms of politics,” Mr Alfaro told The Independent on Sunday.

This is the first time Mexico has allowed independent candidates to run for office for more than 50 years. Pedro Kumamoto, 25, the first independent to run for a congressional seat in western Jalisco state, told the IoS that while further reforms are necessary before unaffiliated candidates have a level playing field, he believes the groundwork is being laid for political outsiders to make further inroads. “Without doubt we can have competitive independent candidates in the 2018 presidential elections,” he said.

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