Mexican president vows focus on poor after mixed election results

Mexican president vows focus on poor after mixed election results

MEXICO ELECTIONS. A supporter of Juan Carlos Loera, National Regeneration Movement party candidate for governor in the state of Chihuahua, holds flags during a rally after the mid-term election in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on June 6, 2021.

Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) A preliminary estimate by the National Electoral Institute sees Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's ruling coalition winning between 265 and 292 of the 500 lower house seats

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday, June 7, vowed to double down on helping the poor after a mid-term election that clipped his wings in Congress with a reduced majority but handed a clutch of new state governments to his candidates.

A preliminary estimate by the National Electoral Institute (INE) after the elections on Sunday, June 6, put Lopez Obrador’s ruling coalition on course to win between 265 and 292 of the 500 lower house seats, short of the two-thirds majority he managed to muster in the first half of his term.

Since taking office in 2018, Lopez Obrador has redirected the federal budget to welfare programs and building infrastructure including a refinery and a train.

Asked how he would respond to the outcome of the elections he said he was committed to doing more for the poor.

“For me it’s a source of pride that the humblest and poorest are the ones who most support the program of transformation,” he said.

Lopez Obrador thanked voters for ensuring his political project would still have a majority in the lower house, and with it, the control of the budget.

However, the lower-house losses are likely to curb his scope to pursue constitutional changes to bolster his drive to tighten state control of the energy sector.

The outcome was roughly in line with final opinion polls, which showed the race tightening after a fatal metro accident in Mexico City and accusations that Lopez Obrador had intervened excessively in the campaign.

Investors saw the election as positive for Mexico’s risk outlook. The peso gained as much as 1.1% to 19.7382 to the dollar to a three-week high.

Lopez Obrador has attacked his predecessors as corrupt and in hock to corporate interests who fomented poverty, inequality and violence. But he has struggled to deliver on pledges to combat gang violence and lift anemic growth.

Capitalizing on discontent over his record, the opposition made gains in Mexico City, provisional results showed.

The capital has been a bastion for Lopez Obrador since he rose to national prominence as mayor from 2000 to 2005. The early results suggested MORENA had lost control of a number of the capital’s 16 boroughs, which it previously dominated.

“We need a government that’s more open to what business is proposing,” said Enrique Prendas, 56, a Mexico City resident who voted for Lopez Obrador in 2018 but this time switched his vote to the center-right National Action Party (PAN).

However Lopez Obrador and allies may be on track to win 11 of 15 state government races, enlarging the party’s footprint across the country.

Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) went into the vote with 253 seats in the lower house. According to INE projections, it will win between 190 and 203.

The new lower house will be seated in September.

MORENA and its allies won 42.5% of votes cast for the lower house, according to a preliminary count of 89% of ballots. The main opposition alliance was slightly behind on 40.0%.

MORENA’s individual tally was far ahead of its nearest rival, giving it a clear advantage in picking up seats from the 300 awarded under a first-past-the-post system. The remaining 200 house seats are divvied up via proportional representation.

To defend its majority, MORENA will rely on votes from the Labor Party (PT) and the Green Party, a political grouping that has proven adept at forging alliances with whoever is in power. –