Leftist candidate claims he will be Mexico's next president
Posted Monday, June 25 2012 at 19:14
Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claims he will be Mexico's next president -- just like he says he should be the country's current president -- even though he has yet to lead in opinion polls.
The assertion is not that far-fetched: the candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in the July 1 vote officially lost the last presidential election in 2006 by less than one percentage point.
In its wake, Lopez Obrador cried foul, led mass protests that paralyzed Mexico City for weeks, and even set up his own "legitimate" government that included a shadow cabinet.
This time around, Lopez Obrador until recently trailed in third place behind Enrique Pena Nieto, the handsome contender for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ran Mexico for 71 years until 2000, and Josefina Vazquez Mota, who represents the ruling conservative National Party (PAN).
While polls still show Pena Nieto with a healthy lead, the margin has decreased, placing Lopez Obrador in second place with just over a week to go before Mexicans head to the polls.
"People of all social classes, increasingly more PRI and PAN members are offering their support," Lopez Obrador said in a Twitter message after a recent rally. "It will be a triumph for everyone."
At the next campaign stop, he described "many enthusiastic people in favor of a true change."
Lopez Obrador is convinced he can pull off an upset victory with support from voters tired of 12 years of PAN rule together with those who want to deny the PRI a return to power.
Though still enjoying strong working class support, the 58-year-old former Mexico City mayor has struggled to win back broad support since throwing what many saw as a massive tantrum after losing in 2006.
Lopez Obrador represents a party formed in 1989 by prominent leftists that split from the PRI after the 1988 election. That election resulted in the PRI's Carlos Salinas narrowly winning after the computer vote counting system mysteriously crashed.
At its core, the PRD harkens back to the PRI policies of the 1940s, when a paternalistic state helped the poor and nationalistic trade policies protected local business.
The silver-haired politician, best known by his initials AMLO, says he wants to be Mexico's version of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's popular former leftist president.
After years of being the angry protest leader and sore loser, Lopez Obrador opened his presidential bid showing a kinder, gentler side.
"Let's all join, without hate, without bitterness, to build a republic of love," he said as he announced his candidacy.
His critics aren't buying the change and fear he is a version of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a firebrand leftist leader, in disguise.
Former Mexican presidents usually remain silent after retirement, but Vicente Fox (2000-2006) has been anything but.
"Mexico cannot be Venezuela -- that would be to plunge into chaos and the loss of our future for your youth," Fox told reporters recently in the city of Guanajuato, just ahead of a Lopez Obrador rally there.
"In Mexico we do not want a Lopez Chavez," said Fox, a PAN leader who has had kind words for the PRI candidate.