PRI suffers election blow in key Mexican state race

The Institutional Revolutionary Party did not recognize Baja California defeat and demanded recount

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.Presidencia México

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto suffered a severe political blow on Sunday when his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was defeated at the polls in Baja California by a coalition that included the country's two leading opposition parties.

Following a dirty gubernatorial campaign, Francisco "Kiko" Vega, a former mayor of Tijuana, narrowly defeated Fernando Castro Trenti, who was backed by the PRI, by about three points.

The conservative National Action Party (PAN), which had governed Baja California since 1989, and the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) formed a coalition with the New Alliance Party to back Vega for governor.

Baja California is an important political stronghold. Located in the northwest of the country, the state was where the PRI first tasted election defeat in 1989 - the beginning of the end of its nearly 71-year rule until 2000. With Peña Nieto's election last year, the PRI completed its return to power. The opposition's win in Baja California marked the PRI's first major defeat since January 2011, when it lost another political stronghold, Guerrero state.

Still, the PRI didn't recognize the defeat in Baja California late Sunday and demanded a recount. But Peña Nieto said he wanted his party to respect the results of Sunday's elections.

"It is now up to all the candidates and political parties to accept the citizens' decisions," he said Monday. "In every democracy there are winners and those who are not favored by the majority."