Overwhelming majority of Mexicans back president to stay in power

Despite predictions of overwhelming support for the president, turnout is forecast to be between 17% and 18.2%, Mexico’s National Electoral Institute says – below the 40% threshold needed to make the result binding

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – About 90% of Mexicans voting in an early election on Sunday, April 10, backed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to stay in office, underlining his domination of the political agenda, even though turnout was at the lower end of forecasts.

Between 90.3% and 91.9% voters who were predicted to have supported Lopez Obrador in the referendum he had vigorously campaigned for, according to a preliminary estimate published by the National Electoral Institute (INE) on Sunday night.

Still, turnout was forecast to be between 17% and 18.2%, INE said, well below the 40% threshold needed to make the result binding. A poll published by newspaper el Financiero earlier this month had forecast turnout of 16-25%.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist, was the architect of the first so-called ‘recall referendum’ in modern Mexico, and both critics and fans alike viewed his victory as a foregone conclusion.

Opposition politicians had actively discouraged their supporters from voting, with many condemning the process as a propaganda exercise for the president and a costly distraction from the country’s real problems. Read full story

Political analysts said Lopez Obrador was likely to seize on the result as a personal triumph as he attempts to push a constitutional change to the electricity market through Congress in the coming week, although he looks short of votes.

After initial results came in, Lopez Obrador said on Twitter that he was preparing a video address, adding: “I really love you.”

The referendum fueled speculation it could open the door to extending presidential term limits in a country where the head of state is allowed to serve only a single six-year period.

Lopez Obrador denies he wants to extend his term, but used the referendum to fire up his supporters and test of his strength ahead of gubernatorial elections in June.

“Democracy has to become a habit in Mexico,” the president told a crowd after he left a voting booth, “so that no one forgets that the people are the ones who govern.”

Since taking office in December 2018, Lopez Obrador has fallen short of campaign pledges to bring down violent crime and lift the economy, unsettling investors by trying to renegotiate contracts issued by past governments and tightening state control of natural resources and energy.

But his successful roll-out of welfare programs and relentless daily depiction of a political narrative in which he stars as a morally upright defender of the poor against a corrupt, wealthy elite has helped buttress his popularity.

Contentious

Many Mexicans regard the folksy Lopez Obrador as a welcome departure from previous leaders often seen as aloof from the broader population in a society that remains highly unequal.

“I want the president to continue in power,” Guillermina Gomez said after voting in the central state of Tlaxcala.

The 60-year-old homemaker said the president’s welfare programs had allowed her grandchildren to enroll in high school, something that had been impossible for her own children due to her household’s measurer income.

“Thanks to him we’ve received benefits that no one else has given us,” she said.

Costing millions of dollars and heavily publicized in the capital, the referendum asked Mexicans if Lopez Obrador’s mandate should be revoked “due to loss of trust,” or whether he should conclude his term as scheduled on Sept. 30, 2024.

Still, Maribel Rosas, 36, who voted for Lopez Obrador to become president, said she had cast a vote for him to be removed from office, arguing that he was failing to help the middle class and encourage social polarisation.

“This division isn’t going to get us anywhere,” said Rosas, a Mexico City resident who works in advertising.

The president has accused the National Electoral Institute of trying to stymie the referendum, which it denies, and suggested that he would blame it for any shortcomings. – Rappler.com

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