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Court annuls key election in Mexico

A court dealt a severe blow to Mexico's former ruling party Friday, annulling its only governorship victory since the party lost control of the national government.

In an unprecedented show of judicial force after decades of corrupt elections, Mexico's top electoral court ruled 4-2 that October elections in the gulf state of Tabasco were too fraught with errors to be valid. The state congress will choose an acting governor, and new state elections must be held within a year.

In another setback for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the court named a seven-person electoral board for the state of Yucatan after ruling that the board named by the PRI-dominated state legislature was invalid.

The apparent win of Manuel Andrade in Tabasco had been seen as an indication that PRI _ which had ruled for 71 straight years before losing the presidency to Vicente Fox's National Action Party _ might have held its power base in southern Mexico.

"This is incredible. We didn't expect this," said Carlos Perez, spokesman for Andrade.

Raul Ojeda, who narrowly lost the election to Andrade, wept with emotion when he learned of the ruling while surrounded by reporters.

"We Tabascans must never again allow a ruler to take over the state and turn elections into false and arranged competitions," he said, referring to outgoing Gov. Roberto Madrazo.

After the ruling Friday, cars with opposition party flags flapping from their windows jammed the main avenues of the state capital in celebration.

Fox's party and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party had filed complaints demanding the Tabasco results be overturned, citing reports of missing ballot boxes and claims that some uncounted votes had been burned.