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Mexico: The 1988 Elections
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > The Electoral Process and Political Dynamics > The 1988 Elections


The 1988 elections were a watershed in the history of Mexican politics, marking a radical shift in the country's political dynamics and providing the first test of the 1986 electoral reforms. The emergence of two nationally prominent opposition candidates afforded an unprecedented challenge to the PRI's electoral machine, which until that time had faced mostly obscure and poorly financed adversaries.

Assailed by a partisan rupture over the nomination of Salinas, which ultimately led to the defection of much of the PRI's populist wing to the leftist opposition, the PRI party apparatus was under intense pressure to produce a victory or face disintegration. Within the context of a national economic crisis, an intraparty split, and a hotly contested presidential race, many observers expected the PRI to resort to fraud to secure a decisive win.

Although the PRI maintained control of the presidency and preserved its congressional majority in the July 1988 balloting, the elections were a blow to the PRI's preeminent position in Mexican politics. The PRI suffered a dramatic erosion of 18 percent in its share of the presidential vote from the previous election and surrendered an unprecedented 48 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies to the opposition. The official tally, which showed Salinas winning a bare majority of 50.7 percent of the vote, was questioned by an unexpected week-long delay in the computerized tally and widespread reports of vote fraud and irregularities. As a result, the new administration began its term in office as one of the most unpopular in recent Mexican history.

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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