‘Trump Effect?’ Domestic Issues Dominate Mexico’s Presidential Race, Say Analysts

By Mark Browne | March 21, 2018 | 6:40pm EDT
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, is leading in the polls. (Photo: AMLO campaign)

Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Voters are focused on domestic issues rather than Mexico’s relations with the U.S. as the country’s presidential race enters its final three months before the July 1 vote, according to analysts with a close eye on the campaign.

Issues of poverty, crime, corruption, and the country’s poorly functioning justice system dominate the race, according to Christopher Wilson, deputy director at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute.

Negotiations to renew NAFTA, and President Trump’s immigration policies and plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, aren’t campaign issues as of yet.

“So far, the impact of U.S. politics on the race has been minimal,” Wilson said.

Three could be the lucky number for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City and founder of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, who failed at two previous attempts to win the presidency.

“He is clearly in the lead and if anything his lead appears to be widening,” Wilson said.

“We are seeing a level of sophistication from his campaign and discipline that we didn’t see in his previous campaigns. It suggests he may be able to hold on to his lead.”

Lopez Obrador’s closest challengers are José Antonio Meade, representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – the party of current President Enrique Peña Nieto – and Ricardo Anaya, whose conservative National Action Party (PAN) has formed an alliance with several leftist parties.

Anaya and Meade are fighting for second place and the right to “take the banner as the alternative to Lopez Obrador,” said Wilson.

The candidate with the most votes wins the election, even with a majority of less than 50 percent.

Negative popularity ratings have plagued Lopez Obrador in his past campaigns but are now declining, according to Wilson.

“So there is a real question mark as to just how much of an anti-Lopez Obrador vote will materialize,” he noted.

There is no visible “Trump effect” in the race at the moment, according to  Javier Urbano Reyes, a professor of migration and international studies at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City.

“Things are still focused on the candidates themselves and their qualifications,” he told CNSNews.com.

While Lopez Obrador has touched upon the themes of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the status of Mexican immigrants generally in the U.S., there has been very little mention of those issues by the other candidates in the race.

The independent candidate in the race, Margarita Zavala, wife of former President Filipe Calderon, could end up being a wild card.

While it’s unlikely she would win, she could siphon off votes from Anaya, making the race between Meade and Lopez Obrador, Reyes said.

For now, voters are focused on the issues of corruption, violence related to drug trafficking, and impunity, according to Reyes.

At least 22 current or former governors, all members of the ruling PRI, have been accused of embezzling approximately $13.7 billion since Peña Nieto took office in 2012.

Homicide investigations are up by 30 percent over last year.

And corruption among government officials is widespread, with businesses in Mexico paying nearly $89.5 million in bribes in 2016.

Nearly 70 percent of citizens said Mexico is going in the wrong direction, according to a poll taken last year.

In a speech to supporters in Mexico City recently, and posted to his website, Lopez Obrador said voters must choose between “maintaining the regime of corruption” or look for a way to “transform Mexico.”

“We live at a defining historic time, and we have to succeed at a rebirth of Mexico … because people are fed up with the corruption and deceit.”

Lopez Obrador has vowed to make Mexico energy self-sufficient, reducing the country’s dependence on imports of diesel fuel and gasoline from the United States.

His campaign platform calls for modernizing the country’s two oil refineries and building a new one.

He has also promised to end corruption and impunity, and to sell the presidential jet.

Lopez Obrador has said if elected he would not live in the presidential residence known as Los Pinos.


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