Representative samples from polling stations throughout the country gave Peña Nieto the lead, with between 37.93% and 38.55% of votes, the Federal Election Institute said.
The projected victory for Peña Nieto marks a triumphant return to power for the PRI, which controlled Mexico’s presidency for more than 70 years, until the election of the National Action Party’s Vicente Fox in 2000.
“I take with great emotion and a great sense of commitment and full responsibility the mandate Mexicans have granted me today,” Peña Nieto told supporters, standing at a podium with a sign that said “Mexico won.”
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Peña Nieto’s closest competitor, said Sunday night that he wasn’t ready to concede. “The last word has yet to be said,” the former Mexico City mayor told supporters in the capital late Sunday. An official individual vote tally begins Wednesday. Lopez Obrador trailed by 6 percentage points in the Sunday night quick count, which projected he garnered between 30.90% and 31.86% of the vote.
Ruling party candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota was trailing in exit polls and the quick count projection, which said she received between 25.10% and 26.03% of votes.
Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance, who lagged far behind in polls before and after the election with less than 3% of votes, praised Mexico’s election authorities Sunday night. “We have very solid, democratic institutions,” he said.