Many Mexicans feel frustration at the past 12 years of rule by the National Action Party, which failed to usher in wholesale reforms of a PRI-designed political system.
At the end, the lasting impression is of enormous wasted opportunity, Jorge Zepeda Patterson, a political scientist and columnist, wrote in the El Universal newspaper Sunday.
Under Calderon, the party brought U.S.-Mexico security cooperation to unprecedented levels. But while deploying soldiers to the streets, and capturing numerous drug barons, it failed to rein in runaway killings and rampant violence that have left pockets of the country under control of gangsters.
Calderon treats the toll from crime-related killings as a state secret, wary that the bloodletting will stain his legacy. Outside experts say they believe the toll has surpassed 55,000 deaths since late 2006.
In his victory speech, Pena Nieto pledged to maintain a firm hand against organized crime.
Let me be clear: There will be no agreement with, no respite against, organized crime, he said, adding that he will lead a new strategy to reduce violence and protect the lives of Mexicans, above all.
The election had the feel of a watershed as it redrew the political map.
In addition to the presidency, Mexicos 79.4 million voters also replaced all 128 senators and 500 members of the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, as well as more than 1,400 state and local officials.
Mexicans also voted for governors of six states and the mayor of Mexico City, a position with powers equal to a governor.
Voters gave a landslide victory to the Party of the Democratic Revolutions Miguel Angel Mancera, allowing the party to hang on to Mexico City Hall, which it has controlled for a decade and a half.
Mexico does not have a runoff system, and the presidential candidate who wins the most votes Sunday will take office Dec. 1 for a six-year term.
The one-time margin of some 30 percent that Pena Nieto held over his rivals a year ago diminished sharply during the three-month formal campaign. But the candidate, handsome and genial, drew swoons on the campaign trail, with women clasping at his forearms at campaign rallies, leaving red welts.
Whoever moves into Los Pinos, the presidential palace, Dec. 1, will find good and bad news on the security front. For the first time in years, the homicide rate is dipping. But the criminal landscape is unstable. Powerful criminal organizations, like Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, face an array of upstart crime groups.
Surprisingly, public security was not a major issue in the campaign. All candidates vowed to keep the army on the streets for the foreseeable future.