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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ruling MexicanParty Faces Loss of Majority

MEXICO CITY -- The 24-year-old auto worker squinted in puzzlement when asked why he had shown up for a rally closing the campaign of Mexico's ruling party, known as the PRI.

"I don't know,'' Omar Oledo said after the event Sunday. "The tradition is to be with the PRI.''

It is an increasingly endangered tradition.

The PRI -- the Institutional Revolutionary Party -- has held the presidency since 1929, but has begun to suffer losses in recent years in state and local races, and it faces a possibility in elections Sunday of losing its congressional majority.

The most visible loss would be the mayor's race in Mexico City. That post has always been appointed by the president and has always gone to a member of the PRI. The mayor will be elected this year for the first time since 1928.

PRI candidate Alfredo del Mazo trails badly in the polls to leftist leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas.

But the PRI is still the best-organized party in Mexico, and it can still turn out a crowd. On Sunday it filled the historic Zocalo Square to capacity, bringing 100,000 flag-waving supporters onto the cobblestone plaza.

The party has long won elections through a mix of patronage, intimidation and nationalism. Its colors are red, white and green, the same as those of the Mexican flag.

But because of electoral reforms, economic crisis and internal change -- as well as improved organization among the opposition parties -- its support is waning.

Many people in the crowd Sunday said they were bused in by neighborhood groups or companies from outlying areas. Oledo, for example, came with workers from a Chrysler plant. He said all the workers at the plant supported the PRI, but he couldn't elaborate on why.

Some said they still didn't know who they would vote for, and had come to accompany a friend. Those who supported the PRI sometimes said they did so out of fear of the unknown; the PRI is the only government they have ever known.

"Thanks to the PRI, we have continued working in the public streets,'' said 23-year-old Ruben Davila, who sells soft drinks on the street. The PRI has long protected street vendors from the complaints of shopkeepers.

Many of the pre-printed banners in the square touted a PRI vote as a "safe'' vote. The leftist Democratic Revolution Party of Cardenas held its own closing rally Saturday, drawing a crowd of similar size and greater enthusiasm.

"I came to participate in the change that is occurring,'' said Alejandra Avila Gonzalez, a 32-year-old laboratory technician who brought her 3-year-old daughter, Rebecca, to the Cardenas rally.

Cardenas lost to the PRI in the 1988 presidential race -- a loss many blamed on fraud -- and lost again in 1992 in an election most observers believe was fair.

In addition to the Mexico City mayor, the July 6 elections will select 32 senators, 500 federal congressmen and six state governors. Also being elected are 265 mayors and 227 local deputies.