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Mexico’s President-Elect Faces Challenges

Daniel Aguilar/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party is back in power for the first time in 12 years after Sunday’s presidential election, but it wasn’t the landslide that many had predicted.

The party’s candidate and now the president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, was declared the winner with 38 percent of the vote -- more than six percentage points ahead of his closest rival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- but many observers say the lack of a landslide means Peña Nieto has his work cut out for him.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party had been in power for 71 years before it was kicked out amid claims of rampant corruption.  Many voters are wary of Peña Nieto’s ability to carry out his plans for reform, and remain worried about handing power back to the PRI.  In Sunday’s presidential vote, three out of five voters cast ballots for candidates other than Peña Nieto.

Carlos Ramirez, a Mexico analyst for the Eurasia Group, tells the Los Angeles Times that Peña Nieto’s “mandate is clearly weaker than expected.”

Peña Nieto’s party does not have a majority in Mexico’s legislature and will have to negotiate any new reform proposals with Lopez Obrador’s leftist Democratic Revolution Party and outgoing President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party.  To make matters worse, Obrador has refused to admit defeat and says he will wait until the final results are in and a legal review is performed before conceding.

The U.S. State Department congratulated Peña Nieto Monday on his win and expressed confidence that Mexico and the United States would continue to work together on important issues like the ongoing drug wars.

During his campaign, Peña Nieto expressed a desire to shift the focus of Mexico’s war on drugs away from targeting cartel bosses and stopping drug smugglers heading to the U.S. to instead concentrating on making Mexico’s streets safer for its citizens.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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