Politics Mexico's AMLO presses for victory and country's 'fourth transformation'
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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, is pressing hard for his political party, the National Regeneration Movement, or, to win big in the June 6 midterm elections and boost his plans to transform Mexico profoundly.
This will be the mostelection during AMLO's six-year term of office, and it is the largest election in Mexico's history. The voting will determine the make-up of the lower house of Congress, 15 governorships, 30 state congresses and some 1,900 municipal governments.
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The election also will decide how strong a mandate AMLO will have to pursue his "" (4T) for Mexico over the remaining three years of his presidential term. AMLO is making clear that he aims to concentrate more power in the presidency and "the State" in order to transform Mexico, with the overarching ambition of providing more support for Mexico's poorer citizens.
Thus, the impact of the June 6 voting could be very substantial for Mexico, for the shape of its democracy, and indirectly for U.S.-Mexico relations.
AMLO has positiveof over 55 percent, but he consistently has polled significantly his party. Recent polling suggests that AMLO's allies are on track to gain a majority in the lower house of Congress, but that they the two-thirds majority that is needed to amend the constitution and thus to pursue some of AMLO's desired reforms.
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This helps explain why AMLO has become more outspoken recently, sharply criticizing individuals, organizations and institutions that he perceives are opposing his plans or limiting his freedom of action. AMLO is also taking some more strident nationalistic positions, which some worry could bode ill for future US-Mexico cooperation. Hethe United States for that have criticized federal government actions, for example, and took a swipe at the Federal Aviation Administration's downgrading Mexico's aviation safety rating. The president also increasingly advocates for with steps that would harm .
AMLO is presenting a more radical agenda than the one he offered in his 2018 presidential campaign. Among other things, he supportedof the Supreme Court's chief justice, despite others arguing it violates the constitution. He has announced that he will appoint a chief in the fall who favors a " ." He has taken a series of steps to reassert the State's leading role in the and criticized those who block his moves in that direction, including judges who cite violations of the constitution.
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AMLO has been using his morning news conferences to attack critics and has had his government agencies investigating, including a sitting and in the current elections. He has criticized Mexico's for taken, and they have AMLO for violated election rules. AMLO favors absorbing other autonomous into the government. These steps have set off among those who see checks and balances as important for Mexico's democracy.
In, polls suggested that AMLO and his Morena party and allies retained a level of public support similar to that which produced victory in 2018 and resulted in in the lower house of Congress for them. However, indicate a downturn in their projected vote tallies and a greater likelihood that Morena and its allies will fall short of the two-thirds majority in the Chamber of Deputies needed to amend the constitution. Morena leaders are now warning of .
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AMLO's critics point to a poor record on theincluding a growth rate last year; a substantial increase in poor public security results, with violence near ; and some estimates put pandemic than the official numbers reported. However, AMLO's supporters point to , including new pensions for seniors; aid for the disabled; major reforms to promote union democracy; and an increased minimum wage, among others.
AMLO's overall popularity has held up well, no doubt helped by the absence of a cohesive opposition. But polling on individual areas such as public security and corruption are much worse, with 67 percent and 59 percent, respectively, critical of his performance in. Ratings of his have become less favorable, as he has become more aggressive.
that the June 6 vote tallies in swing districts, which appear highly contested, will be . The effects of COVID-19 and organized crime on voter turnout remain wild cards. of election-related are taking a .
If AMLO's coalition wins a large majority in Congress, among governors and local governments, he will certainly vigorously pursue his 4T agenda and have the institutional support he needs. Even with a more modest outcome, however, AMLO likely will press hard to achieve as much of his vision as possible before the end of his term.
In either case, as AMLO pushes ahead with reforms, Mexico's relationship with the United States is likely to become more challenging. It will require careful attention to manage well the very important U.S.-Mexico agendas on migration, trade and cross-border crime.
Former ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne is a diplomat-in-residence at American University's School of International Service and advisory board co-chair for the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. He was a U.S. diplomat for 40 years. Follow him on Twitter.
Mexico's midterm election takeaways .
The morning after his country's largest election in history, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held his daily press conference, where he usually talks about his policies and answers questions from the media. © Claudio Cruz/AFP/Getty Images Polling station officials count the votes in Mexico City, on June 6, 2021. The president, also known as AMLO, arrived at the morning conference smiling. "Cheer up!," he told reporters gathered at Mexico City's National Palace, the executive branch's seat. Sure, the president has reasons to smile -- but not as many as he hoped he would have.