Leftist candidate set to win Mexican presidential polls

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at 64, has managed to embody Mexico’s strong desire for change

Leftist candidate set to win Mexican presidential polls

World Bulletin / News Desk

Mexico’s next president might well be veteran left winger Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is leading in the latest polls as the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) faces the greatest debacle it has seen in years.

“An election like no other!” multinational finance company Goldman Sachs said in a subheading of its March 23 report on the July 1 presidential election.

López Obrador, also known as AMLO, is a whooping 20+ points ahead of his opponents.

The frontrunner is faced by three male candidates. One of them -- independent candidate Jaime Rodríguez, also known as El Bronco (literally, “wild” or “untamed horse”) -- has no chance of winning but will be remembered for suggesting that corruption be stopped by cutting the offenders’ hands off. Another one is José Antonio Meade, who runs under the colors of the PRI, which has run the country uninterruptedly for more than seven decades. Its return to power after 12 years of rightwing leadership did not go well, which has cost Meade the people’s support in the polls.

But López Obrador’s most serious challenger is Ricardo Anaya, a 39-year-old pro-business candidate backed by a heterogenous coalition featuring both left (PRD) and right (PAN) parties.

López Obrador, who at 64 has managed to embody Mexico’s strong desire for change, is a veteran politician, and this is his third attempt at being elected president. He has served various political mandates yet has managed to create an image of himself as a political outsider, distant from Mexico’s political elite.

For years, he has campaigned throughout the country -- to every existing locality, he often says -- and has managed to build a strong bond with the people of Mexico. He describes himself as a man of the people and prides himself on his modest background.

The 2018 campaign reflects just that. Unlike the other candidates, who have been holding meetings in town halls with seats and a public brought by bus and rewarded with lunch, López Obrador’s rallies feature huge crowds and loud cheers. He is widely applauded when he promises “peace and love” and the end of “the mafia in power”, two of his leitmotifs.

Described as a populist by his detractors, AMLO remains widely unpopular among Mexico’s business elite, which has consistently compared him to the late former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for his authoritarian inclinations and anti-private sector stances. Only in the last few weeks have their discrepancies settled, with both parties agreeing to a more pragmatic dialogue in anticipation of AMLO’s probable access to power.

The candidate, who is credited with 50% of voting intentions, also owes his lead in the polls to the focus of his campaign: he has promised that if he comes to power, there will be no more corruption.

“I will clean the country as you clean the stairs; from top to bottom,” he often claims.

This is a discourse that many Mexicans are sensitive to: outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto’s mandate has been marked by various blatant corruption scandals. Veracruz governor Javier Duarte Ochoa has for example notoriously been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of pesos, bankrupting his state before escaping to Guatemala in a helicopter in 2016. He was arrested later on.

Peña Nieto has also faced strong criticism for his inability to control the violence that seems to have taken hold of the country. His decision to pursue the war on drugs, initiated by former president Felipe Calderon in 2006, which did not yield the expected results, led to escalating violence between smaller, more competitive factions of the beheaded cartels, and in confrontations with the Mexican army.

This low-intensity conflict had taken its toll: more than 230,000 deaths and 36,000 disappearances in 12 years, with 2017 culminating as the most violent year observed in Mexico, with more than 25,000 casualties.

The 2018 vote, which along with electing the future president will fill more than 3,400 local positions (mayors, local congressmen, governors and both national chambers of Congress), has been deeply marked by violence. More than 130 local politicians have been assassinated in the course of the campaign that started last September, according to Etellekt, a risk analysis and crisis management firm. In some localities where drug traffickers are in total control, such as Filo de Caballos in Guerrero state, where poppy seeds are cultivated to produce heroin, candidates must obtain permission to campaign before they can enter the zone. In another municipality, Pedro de Ascencio, the entire PRD (left) list running for mayorship has resigned, arguing that “conditions for campaigning safely are not fulfilled”.

A few hours away from election day, 64% of Mexicans are expected to vote, according to a poll conducted for economic newspaper El Financiero -- a slightly lower participation than average for a ballot which could swing the country left for the first time in its history.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Haziran 2018, 09:27