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Mexico Set for Leftist Landslide as Exit Poll Has AMLO Far Ahead

Mexico Set for Leftist Landslide as Exit Poll Has AMLO Far Ahead
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AP)

Sunday, 01 July 2018 09:28 PM EDT

Mexicans appear to have elected their first left-wing leader in decades, as exit polls showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador winning Sunday’s presidential vote by a landslide over his business-friendly rivals.

The survey by El Financiero showed Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, with 49 percent of the vote. Ricardo Anaya, leader of a right-left coalition, had 27 percent and Jose Antonio Meade, the candidate of the incumbent PRI party, was on 18 percent. The poll was published at 8 p.m. local time, with counting still underway. The first official results are expected within three hours.

Lopez Obrador, who was defeated in the last two presidential votes, has led throughout this campaign. He’s riding a public revolt against entrenched corruption, rampant violence and an economy that’s failed to deliver higher living standards – especially for the poor, about half of Mexico’s 125 million population.

His strong showing fits with a global trend of anti-establishment politics, from gains by parties of the left and right in Europe to Donald Trump’s presidency in the U.S. There are also regional echoes: Mexico is one of the few countries in Latin America that hasn’t had a leftist government in recent decades.

Lopez Obrador has promised to govern as a pragmatist. Still, his procession toward victory has alarmed many investors and business leaders, who worry that he’ll roll back privatization of the energy industry and push the country into debt by spending more on social programs.

‘Real Change’

Those concerns will be amplified if Lopez Obrador’s Morena party wins majorities in both houses of Congress, which earlier surveys had suggested is likely.

There was no immediate panic on currency markets, which have had plenty of time to prepare for an AMLO win. The peso was up 0.4 percent to 19.83 per dollar in overnight trading right after the exit-poll numbers were announced. The currency has declined almost 10 percent since mid-April, as Lopez Obrador’s poll lead widened and trade tensions with the U.S. mounted, though it’s still among the best emerging-market performers this year.

Lopez Obrador cast his ballot early Sunday in the capital, where he served as mayor last decade. “Today, people are going to decide if they want more of the same or a real change,” he said.

The exit polls suggest Mexicans have opted for change, and turned their backs on the only two parties to have run the country in almost a century. There are plenty of reasons they might want to kick out the governing class.

“We need a complete transformation in Mexico,” said Sergio Oceransky, 45, as he voted at a polling station in central Mexico City. “We’re experiencing a tremendous political crisis that’s no longer sustainable.”

On the campaign trail, many voters say physical security was their top concern. A decade-long war on drug cartels has pushed the murder rate to record levels.

Poverty Rate

Then there’s Mexico’s $1.2 trillion economy, which has grown at about 2.5 percent a year over the past quarter-century – less than half the average pace for developing nations. In that period, poverty rates have barely budged while the number of billionaires increased sharply.

The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador promises to ramp up social programs and says he can fund them without deficit spending by eliminating graft, a claim that’s been greeted skeptically by economists.

He’s also promised not to nationalize companies or quit NAFTA. Still, investors are worried that Lopez Obrador may scrap a $13 billion Mexico City airport project that’s already underway, and cancel oil contracts signed as part of outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s energy reforms.

Record Disapproval

Opening Mexico’s moribund energy industry to private investors was one of Pena Nieto’s signature achievements, and helped him win a reputation as an economic reformer early on.

But after the surge in violence, and a string of graft scandals that dragged in the president and his family, Pena Nieto is ending his six-year term with some of the lowest approval ratings in the history of the presidency.

He’ll remain in office until December whatever today’s outcome, because Mexico has a five-month gap between elections and inauguration.

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


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Mexicans appear to have elected their first left-wing leader in decades, as exit polls showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador winning Sunday's presidential vote by a landslide over his business-friendly rivals. The survey by El Financiero showed Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO,...
mexico presidential election, andres manuel lopez obrador
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2018-28-01
Sunday, 01 July 2018 09:28 PM
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