5 Jul 2010

Opposition gains in regional Mexican elections

9:06 pm on 5 July 2010

The main opposition party in Mexico has claimed victory in regional elections that are considered an important test for the presidential election in two years' time.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, appears to have made some gains in elections for governor, mayors and local deputies in almost half of the country's states.

Exit polls and early results suggest, however, that the victories may not have been on the scale the PRI had expected.

President Felipe Calderon's centre-right PAN and its allies may even be in a position to win some governorships previously held by the PRI.

Violence overshadowed the election campaign, with two candidates killed, the BBC reports. Correspondents say the campaign was the bloodiest in more than 15 years, although the voting itself appears to have been peaceful.

The vote is seen as an unofficial referendum on Mr Calderon's crackdown on drug cartels. About 5000 deaths so far this year have been blamed on drug-related violence.