In six months Mexicans will be heading to the polls to elect a new president, as well as all members of both houses of Congress. Current president Enrique Pena Nieto, is term-limited, and his PRI candidate, Jose Antonio Meade, is currently languishing in third place in the polls.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has led in polls all year, and the lackluster performance of his main challengers has rattled the business community and financial institutions, who see him as a populist who could set Mexico on the wrong economic path.
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Also in the mix is former president of the Chamber of Deputies, Ricardo Anaya Cortes, of the right-wing PAN. Anaya is an attorney and political scientist by training, and hails from the tiny southern state of Queretaro.
AMLO has had a long career in politics, and has come close to claiming the presidency twice, in both 2006 and 2012. In 2006 he lost by less than a quarter of a million votes (under 1%) to Felipe Calderon, while in the last election in 2012, he lost to Pena Nieto by a margin of just 6 points.
AMLO burst onto the national scene when he headed the government of the capital region, Mexico City, from 2000 to 2005. Then, at least, he was not the firebrand leftist that he is often depicted as today.
He enjoyed a healthy relationship with the business community, and even partnered with telecom magnate Carlos Slim to develop blighted neighborhoods downtown. He was particularly favorable to the construction industry, which invested heavily in large scale projects in the region.
And he invited former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani to implement a new crime policy for the city. Giuliani is widely credited with dramatically lowering crime levels in America’s largest city, converting it into one of the safest large cities in the country.
Recently, however, AMLO may have harmed his chances by suggesting an unpopular amnesty program for drug cartels as a means to reduce the wave of violence that has plagued Mexico in recent years.
However, current polls show AMLO leading with 31%, followed by Anaya at 23%, and Meade at 15%. Six months is an eternity in politics, but AMLO has led by a comfortable margin for quite sometime.
While an AMLO victory would rattle investors and markets, he may not prove to be as disastrous economically as his critics may think, if his tenure heading the federal district of Mexico City is any indication.