Mexico Populist Lopez Obrador Support Drops in Presidential Poll

  • Former first lady Zavala sees most backing in at least a year
  • Potential PRI candidate Osorio Chong also saw rise in approval

Support for Mexican populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is dropping as former first lady Margarita Zavala gains, according to a poll of potential candidates for the nation’s July 2018 presidential election.

Preference for Zavala, a member of the National Action Party and the wife of former President Felipe Calderon, climbed to 32 percent, up from 27 percent in a poll published in February, according to El Financiero newspaper. Backing for Lopez Obrador, the runner-up to Calderon in 2006 and to President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012, dropped to 29 percent from 33 percent. Support for Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, of Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, rose to 27 percent from 20 percent. The poll of 1,120 adults published Tuesday was taken March 17 to 21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points

The showing is the best for Zavala since at least March of last year. Zavala, whose party traditionally draws support from the business community, is promising to root out corruption, slash regulations to boost Mexico’s economy and improve security. Lopez Obrador has also put an emphasis on anti-corruption efforts, but has raised red flags for investors because of his promises to boost social-welfare spending and his opposition to allowing private investors in industries that have traditionally been run by the state, including oil.

"It’s still an open race," said Alejandro Schtulmann, president of Mexico City-based political-risk advisory firm Empra. "This is an indicator of the fact that the PAN is a very viable choice for many voters."

With the presidential election still more than a year away, the PAN and Lopez Obrador’s Morena, or National Regeneration Movement, are focused on challenging Pena Nieto’s PRI in the State of Mexico governor’s election on June 4. While the PRI, founded almost a century ago, has never lost control of Mexico’s most populous state, where Pena Nieto also served as governor, it’s expected to face a tough campaign in a vote that could shape the national election. Pena Nieto’s record-low popularity could hurt the chances for PRI candidate Alfredo del Mazo, who’s also Pena Nieto’s cousin, to hold onto the state, according to Eurasia Group.

— With assistance by Dale Quinn

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