Mexico votes in widely anticipated midterm elections

More than 20,000 posts are up for grabs, Mexico’s electoral body says, while nearly 95 million people are eligible to vote.

People fill out their ballots at a polling station during mid-term elections in Atzacoaloya, Guerrero state, Mexico, on June 6 [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

Voters are casting their ballots across Mexico, where thousands of posts at the local, state and national levels are up for grabs in what is the biggest vote in the country’s history.

Sunday’s midterm elections will determine the makeup of the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, as well as 15 governorships and thousands of mayoral and local councillor positions.

Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) said more than 20,000 positions are being contested, while nearly 95 million people are eligible to vote.

The lead-up to Sunday’s elections was marked by widespread violence, with security consulting firm Etellekt reporting that at least 89 politicians, including 35 candidates, were killed in more than 200 days of campaigning.

“What will mark this election is the violence that arose mainly against opponents of state governments or the municipalities,” the firm’s director, Ruben Salazar, told Al Jazeera ahead of the elections.

“What we are witnessing here is political violence, where being part of the opposition implies [you will be] at greater risk in this country.”

A municipal candidate in Veracruz state in the country’s east was fatally shot in the night between Friday and Saturday, his political party said.

“We strongly condemn the cowardly murder of René Tovar, candidate for mayor of Cazones de Herrera, Veracruz,” Clemente Castañeda, national coordinator of the left-wing Citizens’ Movement tweeted, urging the government to “guarantee the life and security of Mexicans during the elections”.

“They promised change but everything is the same or worse. Violence is out of control and the economy is stalled. I don’t see real good options,” 32-year old undecided voter Jorge Lopez in the upscale Mexico City neighbourhood of Polanco, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

While Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, widely known as AMLO, will not be on the ballot, his left-wing Morena party and its allies are looking to shore up support.

A good result in the Chamber of Deputies is especially important for AMLO, who was elected in 2018 to a six-year term, as he seeks to push through several major policy promises in his remaining three years in office.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures at a polling station during the mid-term election outside the National Palace in Mexico City [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Recent polls suggest Morena may lose some of its current 253 seats in the  Chamber of Deputies, but is still likely to retain a majority with the help of the allied Green and Labour parties.

Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Mexico City, said the election is a chance for AMLO to cement his vision for the country. “He says that he wants to transform the country and in particular benefit the poor,” Holman said.

Meanwhile, the president’s opponents as well as onlookers have said the election needs to stand as a counterweight to AMLO. “That’s because he’s been showing some worrying signs,” Holman reported.

“He’s wanting to centralise power. He’s been looking at various points to either eliminate independent institutions or to pack them with his supporters and he’s been criticising independent voices, including respected NGOs in the country, and the press.”

Olivia Aguirre, a 32-year-old academic in Mexico City who voted for Lopez Obrador in 2012 and 2018, said she was disillusioned with him over his dismissal of women’s protests, lack of support for renewable energy and what she called the “authoritarian” drift of his government.

“I’m not happy about the direction the country is headed,” she told Reuters after voting for the opposition in the city’s Roma district.

Nevertheless, the president still retains widespread support, especially among older voters and those from the country’s poorer classes.

“I stand by my president. They’ve attacked him a lot but I see that he’s doing things right … I’m voting for Morena party across the board,” 36-year-old Luis Dominguez told Reuters from the small municipality of Cuaxomulco in the southeastern state of Tlaxcala.

“We have to support him so he can complete his mission,” Dominguez said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies