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Mexico’s Ruling Party Likely to Pick Vazquez Mota in Presidential Primary

(Corrects Vazquez Mota’s age in second paragraph.)

Mexico’s ruling National Action Party will probably choose Josefina Vazquez Mota today as its presidential candidate, hoping she can claw the party back into contention for the July 1 election.

Vazquez Mota, 51, the campaign head of President Felipe Calderon in 2006 and the only woman running in the election, is 29 percentage points ahead of her nearest rival in the primary, Santiago Creel, according to a poll by Gabinete de Comunicacion Estrategica reported by Milenio Television on Feb. 3.

While Vazquez Mota holds the lead in her party, she trails Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party on the national level. To make up the ground, the former education minister plans by making it easier to hire and fire workers and to attract private investment into Mexico’s state-controlled oil industry, boosting economic growth to a rate of at least 6 percent from 2 percent over the past decade.

“A victory within the PAN by a broad margin would help her project the image of someone who can win the presidential race and generate enthusiasm among undecided voters,” Jorge Chabat, a political scientist at CIDE, a university in Mexico City, said by phone before the primaries.

In a Dec. 29 interview, Vazquez Mota also said she aimed to boost tax collection in Latin America’s second-largest economy, and create the 1 million jobs per year Mexico requires to relieve poverty.

More than 1.8 million party members are inscribed to vote today, according to Vazquez Mota’s website. The vote takes place between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Mexico City time in about 2,000 polling stations across the country.

Still Behind

On a national level, Vazquez Mota has the backing of 23 percent of voters, compared with 41 percent for Pena Nieto, according to a Jan. 14-18 survey by Mitofsky. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost the presidential election in 2006 with the Party of the Democratic Revolution, had 18 percent support. The survey included 1,000 people and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Her chances of narrowing the gap on Pena Nieto have been dented by sluggish economic growth, which will slow to 3.33 percent this year from 3.9 percent in 2011, according to 29 economists and consulting firms in a central bank survey published Feb. 1. The central bank estimates that employers will add no more than 600,000 this year.

“Doubling the rate of growth, which we are proposing now, would permit us, if not to totally satisfy the demand for jobs in the formal employment market, then to get much closer to it,” Vazquez Mota said in December.

Vazquez Mota will need 50 percent of the votes plus one to win today’s primary, or at least 37 percent of the vote and a 5 percentage point margin over her closest opponent, according to the party’s election rules. According to the GCE survey, she is backed by 52 percent of voters who identify with PAN, compared with 23 percent for Creel and 21.5 percent for Ernesto Cordero.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net; Jose Enrique Arrioja in Mexico City at jarrioja@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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