XALAPA, Mexico (AP) — Most of the 12 Mexican governorships contested in elections seen as a test for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party remained too close to call Sunday night, with results only beginning to dribble in.
Exit poll results published by Milenio TV and El Financiero showed the most closely watched states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas — both with large populations where the PRI has never lost — too close to suggest a possible winner.
But that did not stop three candidates in Veracruz and two in Tamaulipas from declaring their victories.
Entering Sunday, the PRI controlled nine of the 12 states electing new governors. In five of the 12 statehouses up for grabs the party has ruled uninterrupted for more than 80 years.
The number of states the party controls heading into 2018 will have a significant impact on the amount of resources it has and the number of votes it can muster in the presidential contest.
The PRI lost the presidency in 2000 for the first time in 71 years and won it back in 2012. But President Enrique Pena Nieto is suffering from low approval ratings, intense narco violence in parts of the country and what some see as a lack of commitment to fight corruption.
The PRI's president, Manlio Beltrones, said shortly after voting ended that their exit polls suggested good results in 11 states. The exception was Puebla, where there seemed to be agreement that the National Action Party had a substantial edge. Still, there was no official result.
Exit polls appeared to indicate the PRI had substantial advantages in seeking to maintain power in Sinaloa and Hidalgo.
PAN President Ricardo Anaya proclaimed it an historic night for his party shortly after voting ended. He said the PAN had never won more than three governorships in one election, but that on Sunday they had. He did not say which states he thought they had won.
Government and political leaders reported scattered incidents of election-related violence.
In Veracruz, a two-party alliance backing an opposition candidate complained of attacks against party members in seven municipalities, including vehicles being burned and gasoline bombs thrown at a party office in the state capital of Xalapa.
Jose Mancha Alarcon, the state leader of the National Action Party said attackers burst into the home of the mayor of Acajete and set it on fire.
In the town of Emiliano Zapata, near Xalapa, a severed human head was left in a park just steps from a polling station.
Veracruz state Public Security Secretary Arturo Bermudez confirmed that the driver for a local lawmaker had been kidnapped. The lawmaker is part of the opposition alliance's gubernatorial campaign.
Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that attackers with clubs and stones damaged dozens of buses carrying campaign material in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa. It said a mob in the southern state of Oaxaca burned some ballots and threatened to prevent polling stations from opening, while in Zacatecas a gasoline bomb was tossed at the door of the state congress.
Voters were also deciding local races in Baja California. And in Mexico City, voters were selecting 60 members of a constituent assembly who will write a constitution for the capital.
Sherman reported from Mexico City.