Leftist who has vowed to put Trump ‘in his place’ opens 22-point lead in Mexico’s presidential race

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Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has widened his lead in the race to win the 1 July presidential election, opening up a gap of 22 percentage points, a poll by newspaper Reforma showed on Wednesday.

The poll, run between 12 and 15 April, suggested Mr Lopez Obrador would win 48 per cent of the vote, a jump of six points from a February survey by Reforma. His nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who heads a right-left coalition, dropped by six points to 26 per cent.

Running third was Jose Antonio Meade, candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose backing remained steady at 18 per cent, the poll showed.

The figures for the three stripped out the 19 per cent of respondents who expressed no preference. 

The poll surveyed 1,200 voters and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

A separate survey by polling firm Mitofsky published late on Wednesday also showed Mr Lopez Obrador pulling further ahead.

In that poll, Mr Lopez Obrador garnered 31.9 per cent support, up from 29.5 per cent in a Mitofsky survey last month. Mr Anaya trailed in second with 20.8 per cent and Mr Meade polled at 16.9 per cent.

Mr Lopez Obrador, a 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, has capitalised on widespread disenchantment with the PRI over political corruption, rising levels of violence and sluggish economic growth to consolidate his lead in recent weeks.

He says Mexico should reduce its economic dependence on foreign powers and has vowed to put US president Donald Trump “in his place” if he wins.

Mr Trump’s barbs against Mexican immigrants and complaints that Mexico has taken advantage of the United States over trade have made him unpopular south of the border and a Lopez Obrador presidency could usher in a testier bilateral relationship.

Support for Mr Anaya, a former leader of the centre-right National Action Party (PAN), has slipped since he came under attack from rivals over allegations of financial impropriety in a property deal in his home state of Queretaro.

Mr Anaya, 39, has denied any wrongdoing.

The runner-up in the last two presidential contests, Mr Lopez Obrador has promised an “austere” budget, to be achieved by battling corruption and cutting government waste.

He has threatened to undo the centrepiece of president Enrique Pena Nieto’s economic agenda, the opening of the oil and gas industry to private investment. However, several top advisers say Mr Lopez Obrador is unlikely to make major changes.

Mr Lopez Obrador has raised doubts over the future of Mexico City’s $13bn (£9bn) new airport, now well under construction. Arguing it is too expensive and tainted by corruption, he is threatening to scrap the hub for a cheaper alternative. That has put him at loggerheads with Mexico’s richest man Carlos Slim, who has a major stake in the project.

The Reforma survey also showed Mr Lopez Obrador comfortably beating his two main rivals in direct head-to-head contests. Facing Mr Anaya, he wins by a margin of 51 per cent to 31 per cent and against the 49-year-old Meade, by 57 per cent to 22 per cent.

Mr Lopez Obrador’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is poised to become the largest in Congress, four years after it was formally registered, the Reforma poll showed.

No party has held an outright majority since 1997 and it was not clear MORENA would do so either under the mix of direct election and proportional representation Mexico uses.

MORENA was projected to win 37 per cent of support in voting for the lower house of Congress, the PAN 21 per cent and the PRI 17 per cent, the Reforma survey showed.

The leftist Labor Party (PT), which is allied to MORENA, had 5 per cent of support. Another MORENA ally, the socially conservative Social Encounter Party, polled 1 per cent, below the 3 per cent threshold needed to enter Congress.

Reuters