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AMLO's influence looms over kickoff of Mexico campaign to replace him

Alex Vasquez, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Mexico kicked off its official presidential campaign season Friday, with leading candidates taking center stage as popular outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s overwhelming influence hangs over the country’s future.

Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is the comfortable frontrunner in the June 2 election: She held a 17-point lead over top opposition candidate Xochitl Galvez in February, according to a new poll from El Financiero released as the campaign began.

But the shadow of Lopez Obrador will loom over his protege during the race, and likely throughout her presidency if she wins: One of the biggest open questions is just how much the leader who has come to dominate Mexico will continue to shape its politics after he leaves office.

Sheinbaum has said she will give more details of her plans at a speech Friday at 4 p.m.

AMLO, famous for hours-long morning news conferences and flying coach to burnish his everyman image, often boasts that he is one of the world’s most popular leaders but is limited by law to a single six-year term. His Morena party handed Sheinbaum the task of maintaining and building on the success of the political movement he built: Under AMLO, it has all but vanquished Mexico’s old establishment, which has coalesced behind Galvez.

Now Morena wants to amass even more power: Beyond the presidential race, it is aiming to win enough of the 500 lower house seats and 128 Senate spots up for grabs to hold two-thirds majorities that would potentially allow AMLO’s successor to enact major constitutional changes — including overhauls of the judiciary and electoral system — that he has struggled to steer past the opposition.

 

That has infused some energy into the race. With analysts seeing such majorities as unlikely, AMLO in February unveiled a swath of reform proposals meant to animate his base. One calls for the election of Supreme Court justices, a shot at another institution that has thwarted his goals.

Supporters of Galvez — who is known for stunts like wearing a dinosaur costume to the Senate to mock some of the president’s proposals — staged a massive demonstration in mid-February, flooding Mexico City’s central square in a “march for democracy” that accused AMLO’s government of unfairly influencing the election.

Galvez focused heavily on the country’s ongoing public security crisis in an overnight speech to launch her official campaign, arguing that Mexicans should be free from fear of narco gangs and violence.

“There is a demand that unites all Mexicans: we want to live without fear,” she said, promising to bolster police and the national guard while accusing Morena of ignoring high rates of homicides and disappearances. “Have no doubt that we are going to return peace to this country.”

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