Leftist party makes strong showing in local elections in Mexico's state

Mexico's largest leftist party appeared headed toward a surprisingly strong showing Sunday in local elections in Mexico's most populous state. The race is seen as a key test of party forces less than four months before the July 2 presidential elections.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, long the third-largest force in Mexico state, which surrounds the capital, had received almost 31 percent of votes for the state's 75 legislative seats, according to preliminary counts with about of 21 percent of votes tallied.

Candidates of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held Mexico's presidency for 70 years until 2000, and still holds the state governorship, appeared to narrowly retain its lead, with 33.7 percent of votes.

The conservative National Action Party of President Vicente Fox got about 29.43 percent of votes.

The left had long seen the race as a test of whether the appeal of its front-running presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of neighboring Mexico City, could lift the rest of the party ticket.

Earlier, PRD Sen. Cesar Raul Ojeda said that "we think we will be able to make progress in areas where we didn't have much presence before."

"Our candidate leads in polls in the presidential race," Ojeda said, "and for us, this (Sunday's race) will be a good indicator of how those trends are becoming consolidated in states where previously we were the third-largest party."

Mexico state loops around the west, north and east of Mexico City and most of its people live in massive suburbs of the nation's capital. With 14 million people, the state holds about 13 percent of the country's population, reports the AP.

I.L.