Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party on Sunday lost its absolute majority in the lower house in elections, initial results indicated — a setback to his promised “transformation” of the country.
The vote was seen as a referendum on his more than two years in office overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and cartel-related violence.
More than 90 politicians have been murdered in the months leading up to the polls for the lower house of the Mexican Congress of the Union: 15 of 32 state governors and thousands of local politicians.
In the southern state of Chiapas, gunmen on Saturday killed five people in an attack that coincided with the delivery of ballot boxes and other voting materials, while two human heads were left at polling stations in the border city of Tijuana on election day.
Early results suggested Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party was set to take between 190 and 203 of the 500 seats, the Mexican National Electoral Institute said, although it could still secure an absolute majority with its allies.
The ruling coalition has had a two-thirds supermajority in the lower house of Congress that enabled Lopez Obrador to amend the constitution without negotiating with his opponents.
Without it, he faces a tougher time pushing through his planned reforms, including seeking greater energy independence for Mexico.
“It’s a defeat for Lopez Obrador — not overwhelming — but it does weaken him and his project, because it requires constitutional reforms,” political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo said.
“It’s an important victory for the opposition, because it was able to capitalize on the discontent, although the reality is that people voted against Lopez Obrador, not for his opponents,” he said.
A coalition of three opposition parties was set to increase its number of lower house seats to between 181 and 213, the electoral institute said.
That would still be behind MORENA and its allies, which were projected to control 265 to 298 seats.
Lopez Obrador was elected in 2018 for a term of six years, vowing to overhaul Mexico’s “neoliberal” economic model, root out corruption and end profligacy by a privileged elite.
However, his presidency has been largely dominated by the pandemic, which has left 228,804 dead in Mexico and devastated the economy.
While the 67-year-old president himself continues to enjoy public approval ratings above 60 percent, Mexican voters often use midterm elections to punish the ruling party.
“They never had a plan and they still don’t,” Claudia Cervantes, a hospital worker, said of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
However, other voters were willing to give MORENA more time.
“Without the pandemic, the government would have done better,” 37-year-old Tania Calderon said.
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