Mexico votes for new president, leftist rebel likely to win

Published: July 01, 2018 11:54:19 | Updated: July 03, 2018 17:12:53


Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) waves to supporters during his campaign rally in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 1, 2018. Reuters.

Mexicans vote for a new president on Sunday in an election tipped to hand power to an anti-establishment outsider who would inject a new dose of nationalism into government and could sharpen divisions with Donald Trump’s United States.

Former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has led opinion polls throughout the campaign and would be the first leftist to take the presidency in decades in Mexico if he ousts the ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Runner-up in the 2012 and 2006 elections, Lopez Obrador pitches himself as the only man capable of cleaning up a political class whose credibility has been ground down by persistent graft, soaring crime levels and years of sub-par economic growth.

“The new president of Mexico will have moral and political authority to demand everyone behaves with integrity and make honesty a priority as a way of life,” Lopez Obrador said in his campaign finale in a soccer stadium in the capital on Wednesday.

The law bars current President Enrique Pena Nieto from seeking re-election. But his popularity crumbled as his name became tainted by investigations into alleged conflicts-of-interest and embezzlement scandals engulfing top PRI officials.

Campaigning relentlessly around Mexico for the past 13 years, Lopez Obrador has watched political careers rise and fall as established parties were consumed by the country’s social and economic problems and the responsibility of power.

 “Let’s hope Mexico changes,” said Oswaldo Angeles, 20, a Lopez Obrador supporter from Atlacomulco, a longstanding PRI bastion some 55 miles (90 km) from Mexico City and hometown of Pena Nieto. “Right now, we don’t know if we’re coming or going.”

Lopez Obrador, 64, has been vague on policy details, says a Reuters report.

Seeking to harness support from economic nationalists, leftist liberals and social conservatives, he vows to reduce inequality, improve pay and welfare spending, as well as run a tight budget.

A vocal opponent of the government’s economic agenda, his criticism has been tempered by business-friendly aides.

But he has played with the idea of referendums to resolve divisive issues like whether to continue with Pena Nieto’s opening of the oil and gas industry to private capital.

His rivals Ricardo Anaya, an ex-leader of the centre-right National Action Party (PAN) heading a right-left alliance, and PRI candidate Jose Antonio Meade, a former finance minister, differ only in nuance in their support of the energy reform.

Their efforts to catch Lopez Obrador have been hampered by attacks on each other, allowing him to build a lead that some opinion polls have put in excess of 20 percentage points. They also represent the only two parties to have ruled modern Mexico.

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