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  • Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of MORENA Party is greeted by supporters while arriving to a campaign rally in Michoacan state, Mexico.

    Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of MORENA Party is greeted by supporters while arriving to a campaign rally in Michoacan state, Mexico. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 May 2018

"If Lopez Obrador plays dead until July 1, he would still win."

The center-left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has widened his lead and is now 26 points ahead of his closest rival, the right-wing Ricardo Anaya, for the upcoming July 1 presidential elections in Mexico.

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In an opinion poll carried out by the popular newspaper Reforma, the candidate and head of the National Renewal Movement (Morena), who running for president for the first time, got 52 percent of the vote intention.

The same poll also showed that Morena will probably be the party with the biggest minority in the House of Representatives, as it is polling at 42 percent.

Lopez Obrador has a history of clashing with business leaders and his opponents repeatedly painted him as a threat to Mexico’s economic stability during his previous two runs at the presidency, but this time he has managed to please most of the country's economic elite as he has adopted a more liberal program this elections.

In spite of this, a great part of the ruling business class still opposes him.

A letter by billionaire German Larrea, published in Mexican media Tuesday, refers indirectly to Lopez Obrador, who has accused Larrea of belonging to a group of tycoons seeking to thwart democracy and keep him from power, and warned about the risk of Mexico adopting policies similar to Venezuela, Cuba or the former Soviet Union if Lopez Obrador wins.

“If this populist economic model, in which everything supposedly belongs to and comes from the state, and in which people are given things without working for them, ends up being imposed on Mexico, investment will be disincentivized, seriously affecting jobs and the economy,” it said.

German Larrea (L) and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands during an event in Mexico City on September 9, 2014. Photo | Reuters.

The letter by Larrea, who was Mexico’s second-richest man in the 2018 Forbes List, did not mention Lopez Obrador by name and was also addressed to his shareholders.

But it made reference to Lopez Obrador’s candidacy and some of his more contentious proposals, including threats to walk back the government’s opening of the oil and gas sector to private investment, and to scrap a 2012-13 education reform.

Lopez Obrador is an advocate of the Mexican model pursued during a period of rapid growth between the 1950s and 1970s, when the state played a bigger role in the economy.

But he has also moderated his economic rhetoric and said this month that a US$13 billion airport project he long opposed could be built as a private concession. “I understand that German Larrea doesn’t want change, because he’s done very well,” Lopez Obrador said.

Such commitments with the Mexican elite have cost Lopez Obrador a lot of support from more left-leaning voters, but the lack of another real alternative to the establishment parties keeps him in the lead.

Meanwhile Anaya comes second place in Reforma's poll, heading the coalition between the right-wing hardliner National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizen Movement (MC), who lost about 4 points since the last poll and is at 26 percent of the vote intention.
 

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Both the PRD and the MC supported Lopez Obrador during 2012, but distanced themselves from him after he split with more moderate sectors of the parties.

Meanwhile, the candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Jose Antonio Meade is trembling in the third place, with 19 percent of the vote intention. PRI's only hope for the presidency was to propose a candidate not affiliated to the party, trying to distance him from themselves, but the strategy wasn't enough.

Meade, a former ex-treasury minister that doesn't formally belong to any party, has been struggling to deal with his endorsing party's past, as the Enrique Peña Nieto administration has been a proven disaster with tens of thousands dead and missing people, including high-profile cases such as the 43 students from a teacher's school in Ayotzinapa.

Instead, Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, has managed to strengthen his candidacy by used the general rejection of PRI, a party that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000 and then again from 2012 to 2018 amid several corruption scandals, increasing levels of violence and an insufficient economic growth.

This is the first opinion poll carried by Reforma, a rather pro-establishment publication, since the second presidential candidates debate on May 20, in which Lopez Obrador said that he would like to have a friendly and not submissive relationship with the government in Washington, and warned that the U.S. President Donald Trump “will have to learn how to respect” Mexicans.

Reforma surveyed 1,200 eligible voters across the country between May 24 and 27, and says the poll has a +/- 3.8 percent error margin. Eighteen percent of the surveyed voters said they have no preference for any of the candidates.

More than 89 million Mexicans are expected to vote in the July 1 presidential elections, in which both the House of Representatives, the Senate, and several other local and state positions will be renewed.


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