The Philippine Star
Mexico votes for new president
Leftist rebel favored to win
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) — Mexicans voted for a new president yesterday in an election tipped to hand power to an anti-establishment outsider who would inject a new dose of nationalism into the 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 that everyone behave 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 incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto from seeking re-election. 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 90 km from Mexico City and hometown of Peña Nieto.
“Right now, we don’t know if we’re coming or going,” Angeles added.
Lopez Obrador, 64, has been vague on policy details. 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 Peña Nieto’s opening of the oil and gas industry to private capital.
His rivals Ricardo Anaya, an ex-leader of the center-right National Action Party 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.
If victorious, Lopez Obrador faces a tougher security situation than did Peña Nieto.
The next president will also inherit a simmering dispute with Trump over migration and trade, with talks to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unresolved, pressuring Mexico’s peso currency.