Mexicans vote in country's largest elections

Mexicans lined up to vote for a new president on Sunday, with many hoping for a shake-up of the status quo by choosing an anti-establishment leftist whose pledge to clean up politics has resonated widely after years of violence and corruption.
Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador surrounded by a crowd at a polling station in Mexico City yesterday.
Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador surrounded by a crowd at a polling station in Mexico City yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MEXICO CITY • Mexicans voted for a new president yesterday in an election tipped to hand power to an anti-establishment outsider who would inject a new dose of nationalism into government and could sharpen divisions with Mr Donald Trump's United States.

Former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 64, has led opinion polls throughout the campaign and would be the first leftist to take the presidency in decades in Mexico if he ousts the ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Runner-up in the 2012 and 2006 elections, Mr Lopez Obrador pitches himself as the only man capable of cleaning up a political class whose credibility has been ground down by persistent graft, soaring crime levels and years of sub-par economic growth.

"The new president of Mexico will have moral and political authority to demand everyone behaves with integrity and make honesty a priority as a way of life," Mr Lopez Obrador said in his campaign finale in the capital on Wednesday.

The law bars current President Enrique Pena Nieto from seeking re-election. But his popularity crumbled as his name became tainted by investigations into alleged conflicts of interest and embezzlement scandals engulfing top PRI officials.

Campaigning relentlessly around Mexico for 13 years, Mr Lopez Obrador has watched political careers rise and fall as established parties were consumed by the country's social and economic problems and the responsibility of power.

But he has been vague on policy details. Seeking to harness support from economic nationalists, leftist liberals and social conservatives, he vows to reduce inequality, improve pay and welfare spending, as well as run a tight budget.

A vocal opponent of the government's economic agenda, his criticism has been tempered by business-friendly aides. But he has played with the idea of referendums to resolve divisive issues like whether to continue with Mr Pena Nieto's opening of the oil and gas industry to private capital.

His rivals Ricardo Anaya, a former leader of the centre-right National Action Party (PAN) heading a right-left alliance, and PRI candidate Jose Antonio Meade, a former finance minister, differ only in nuance in their support of the energy reform.

Besides electing their president for the next six years, Mexico's 88 million voters will choose their 500 Lower House deputies and 128 senators, as well as a host of state and local officials.

In all, more than 18,000 posts are at stake - the largest elections in Mexican history.

They have also been the most violent, with more than 100 politicians murdered since last September - some after vowing to fight drug cartels, others for apparent links to them, and still others in crimes that, like so many in Mexico, remain murky.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2018, with the headline 'Mexicans vote in country's largest elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe