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UPDATE 6-Mexico's Pena Nieto to push for quick reforms
July 2, 2012 / 11:21 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 6-Mexico's Pena Nieto to push for quick reforms

* Pena Nieto seeks energy, tax and labor reforms
    * President-elect's victory margin smaller than forecast
    * Partial results show PRI may not have majority in Congress


    By Anahi Rama and Tomas Sarmiento
    MEXICO CITY, July 2 (Reuters) - Mexican President-elect
Enrique Pena Nieto pledged on Monday to focus on energy, labor
and tax reforms and said he hopes to strike deals with opponents
to help shepherd changes through Congress before he takes office
in December.
    Pena Nieto won Sunday's election with about 38 percent of
the vote, about 6 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival,
returning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power
after 12 years in opposition.
    But the victory margin was smaller than expected and results
suggested the PRI and its Green allies would struggle to win a
majority, officials at the electoral authorities told Reuters.
    That would leave Pena Nieto reliant on other parties to back
his plans to reinvigorate Latin America's No. 2 economy.
    Speaking to reporters in Mexico City, the 45 year old said
he was ready to consult with outgoing President Felipe Calderon
and bring in experts to make progress on the reforms and help
ease them through Congress, which reconvenes in September.
    His main reform proposals include allowing more private
investment in Mexico's state-run oil industry, overhauling the
tax system to improve government revenues and liberalizing the
country's labor laws to encourage job creation.
    "We will now be working on all these initiatives with public
policy experts," Pena Nieto told a news conference. 
    Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN) had
tried to get similar reforms through Congress over the past six
years but the efforts were thwarted by opposition from the PRI,
which has both populist and pro-business leanings.
    Victor Garcia, a 51-year-old graphic designer in Mexico
City, said the PRI's failure to win a majority was a blow for
the presidency and would stymie economic reform.
    "All the parties just work to their own advantage," he said.
"And the president doesn't give orders to anyone any more."
    Pena Nieto has promised to lift economic growth to about 6
percent a year, create jobs and draw the heat out of a war with
drug gangs that bogged down Calderon's administration. The
conflict has killed more than 55,000 people since late 2006.
    Long regarded as corrupt and authoritarian, the PRI has
bounced back under the youthful Pena Nieto, who has vowed to
break with the party's checkered past.
    He has sought to bring in new blood to the party, and Pena
Nieto said his campaign chief, Luis Videgaray, 43, would form
part of his government team. Videgaray is well regarded by
investors and seen as a possible choice for finance minister.
    But the party is still deeply resented by many Mexicans.
    "Yes, the PRI has experience. They know how to steal. They
know how to make pacts with drug cartels. And they know how to
kill," said Heliodoro Maciel, an electrician and trade unionist.
    
    Final opinion polls before the election had shown Pena Nieto
winning by 10 to 15 percentage points, but with 97 percent of
returns in, the gap to his leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador, was 6.4 points, or roughly 3 million votes. 
    PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota came in a distant third
as the PAN suffered a crushing defeat, hurt by Calderon's
failure to ramp up growth and curb the drug war violence.
    The PAN raised high hopes when it was elected in 2000, but
the economy underperformed its peers in Latin America for most
of the 12-year rule by the party, which never had a majority in
Congress and was unable to push through reforms.
    "Nothing has improved since the PAN got in," said Mexico
City plumber Raimundo Salazar, 44. "The PRI understands how
things work here. And it knows how to manage the drug gangs."
    
    FINANCES UNDER STRAIN 
    Lopez Obrador said on Sunday night it was too early to
concede defeat, but Calderon and U.S. President Barack Obama
have already congratulated Pena Nieto on his triumph.
    The U.S. State Department said it expected close cooperation
against organized crime to continue under Pena Nieto.   
    Pena Nieto will take over at a time when Mexico's finances
are in good order and the economy is improving, although it
still cannot generate enough jobs for the growing population.
    The election result helped bolster Mexico's main share index
 early on Monday before weak global manufacturing data hit
stocks and the peso currency .
    Lopez Obrador could still choose to challenge the election,
as he did six years ago when he narrowly lost to Calderon and
launched months of protests, alleging fraud.
    He has said in recent weeks this election campaign was also
plagued with irregularities, raising concerns he might again
call his supporters onto the streets. On Sunday night, he said
only that he would wait until all the results were in.

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