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Mexico PRI Election Result Disputed

March 1, 2002

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ As it tries to wipe out the stain of a disputed election, Roberto Madrazo said Thursday he wants to lead Mexico’s former ruling party to greater democracy and give it a clearer voice as it struggles to regain power.

Madrazo said the battle for the presidency of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, ``was to recover the party, which has been in the hands of the same group for 20 years.″

Madrazo, who spoke to a group of foreign reporters, won a narrow victory over Congresswoman Beatrice Paredes in Sunday’s nationwide vote, according to official returns announced Wednesday.

Paredes’ backers charge that Madrazo’s supporters committed widespread fraud _ in the process soiling the PRI’s efforts to bury the image of questionable elections during most of the 72 years it held power before losing the presidency in 2000.

Party officials have until Sunday to decide the issue. The new leader is supposed to take over on Monday.

The newspaper Reforma on Thursday published photos of documents from one Oaxaca state polling station showing 2,100 votes for Madrazo, a former Tabasco state governor, and none for Paredes. Some local party officials claim that no one cast a ballot at that location.

Considered a possible presidential contender in 2006, Madrazo has cast himself as a successor to his father, a former PRI leader who tried to open up a party dominated by the national president.

Madrazo said that as a PRI governor, he resisted pressures from then President Ernesto Zedillo _ and ``the imperial presidency″ _ to resign under pressure from the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, which accused him of cheating in the 1994 gubernatorial election.

He repeated his denial of claims he spent $72 million in that election, saying it would have been physically impossible. Backers say opposition complaints against him were smears planted by allies of an angry president.

The PRI, which still has more state, local and federal posts than any other party, ``has a role to play in the democratic transition in Mexico,″ Madrazo said.

Madrazo, who claims to support free markets, said the PRI needs to restore the ``social commitment″ it abandoned in 1982 with a series of free-market-oriented presidents.

He gave no clear vision of how he would pay for new social programs, or in what way they would differ from those of President Vicente Fox.

Like Fox, he says he wants to lessen Mexico’s dependence on the United States.

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