In Mexico, Dynasty Finds Democracy to Its Taste

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President Ernesto Zedillo took a gamble, and won. In a country where the head of the ruling party has traditionally been given the right to name his own successor, Zedillo opted to make a fairer fight of it by putting his choice — Francisco Labastida — into an unprecedented primary race in the Institutional Revolutionary Party that has run Mexico for 70 years. Labastida won by a landslide Monday. Although some had feared that the bitter primary contest with Tabasco governor Roberto Madrazo — who played the insurgent, denouncing Labastida as the "official" candidate backed by the party hierarchy and mocking his record as interior secretary — would split the ruling party. But despite his humiliation at the polls, Madrazo said Monday he and his supporters would remain within the PRI. "Despite the vitriolic outbursts between candidates, the PRI is unlikely to fall apart," says TIME Latin America bureau chief Tim McGirk. "Everybody within the PRI family would have too much to lose."

Labastida still has to face off in a national election on July 2 against the conservative National Action Party's Vicente Fox and the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party's Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, but winning the nomination of the party that has never lost a Mexican election was probably the hardest part. Then again, with this democracy stuff, you never know.