Enrique Peña Nieto (45), presidential candidate of Mexico’s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is set to sweep into victory and bring his party out of a virtual political exile that began in 2000.

While Mr. Nieto, former governor of one of the most populous states of Mexico, had obtained an apparently unassailable 38 per cent lead by mid-day on Monday, his principal rival, leftist candidate and former Mexico City mayor Andres Lopez Obrador, refused to concede defeat holding on to his 31 per cent.

If he consolidates his victory Mr. Nieto’s term in office will be the first for the PRI since its continuous 71-year grip on power during the 20th century was broken at the start of the 2000s.

At the time PRI, reeling from its reputation of corruption and electoral fraud, was upset by Vicente Fox of the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Questions of governance and corruption may however continue to be a theme that returns to haunt the PRI’s new boss in office, as Mexico is still grappling with the ravages of the drug violence, particularly in border areas such as Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo.

Current President Felipe Calderon, who will demit the President’s office soon, mounted an aggressive offence against drug cartels since 2006, targeting their heads directly. Shifting that focus Mr. Nieto was said to be targeting reductions in homicides, kidnappings and extortion, “the crimes that do the most damage to the greatest number of Mexicans, by flooding police and troops into towns and cities with the highest rates of violent crime.”

While some of his opposition argued that this approach implies a return to the “old PRI model” of making deals with the cartels, an official on Mr. Nieto team said “Each administration chooses its operational objectives, and the objective per se is not the extradition or capture of big bosses, or the burning of seized drugs.”

Regardless of the strategy, the outcome in the war on drugs and weapons will be watched closely across the border in Washington, as drug cartels continue to move hundreds of millions of dollars of narcotics each year into the U.S.

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