Mexico lower house polls show setback for AMLO’s ruling coalition

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s coalition is set to fall short of the two-thirds majority necessary for big reforms.

An electoral worker counting ballots after polls closed at a polling station in Morelia, Mexico [Alan Ortega/Reuters]

Mexicans have voted to curb President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s power in elections initial forecast of results showed, delivering his Morena party and allies a reduced majority that will make it more difficult to push through substantial reforms.

The National Electoral Institute (INE) on Sunday estimated the ruling coalition would win between 265 and 292 of the 500 seats in the lower house, short of the two-thirds majority needed to push through amendments to the constitution.

The opposition alliance made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, National Action Party and Party of the Democratic Revolution was projected to win between 181 and 213 seats.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaking during his daily news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City [Henry Romero/Reuters]

On Monday, the president, often referred to by his initials AMLO, acknowledged the results and praised the election as “free, clean”.

“This is the result of the conscious and free participation of citizens,” he said during his daily news conference.

“People are increasingly more aware and more alert – yesterday was truly a triumph of democracy.”

The INE said the participation was high with more than 51 percent of eligible voters. As well as the vote for the lower house of Congress, Mexicans chose 15 state governors and state legislators in Sunday’s race, which is seen as a referendum on Lopez Obrador’s policies and his shake-up of Mexico’s institutions.

Initial results showed Morena winning most of the governors’ races, in line with what opinion polls indicated in the days leading to the election.

One exception was in the Mexican capital. Mexico City has been a bastion for Lopez Obrador since he rose to national prominence as mayor, governing it from 2000 to 2005. Early results suggested Morena had lost control of a number of the capital’s 16 boroughs, which it previously dominated.

Electoral workers counting ballots after polls closed at a polling station in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

In addition, almost 20,000 local posts including mayors and town council seats were being decided in 30 states. Results from those local and state-level races were still being tallied on Monday.

Lopez Obrador, who has promised to transform Mexico with an overhaul of politics and the economy, has toyed with constitutional changes to protect state energy companies.

The contest took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a wave of political violence that has seen at least 91 politicians murdered since the electoral process began in September.

Two heads and other human remains were left at polling stations in the Mexican border city of Tijuana on Sunday, authorities said.

Since taking office in 2018 after a landslide victory, Lopez Obrador has sought to channel more resources to the poor and key infrastructure projects and expanded the state’s role in the energy industry. He has also reduced government costs.

He remains a popular leader with an approval rating of about 60 percent.

But critics say he has eroded institutional checks and balances and sought to concentrate power in the presidency.

On Monday, when asked how he would respond to the outcome of the election, he said he was committed to doing more for the poor.

“More support for the poor, always the poor,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies