World Bulletin / News Desk
Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist veteran who won a landslide victory in Sunday’s polls, now has to deliver on his campaign promises to an electorate with high expectations.
On election night, the streets of Mexico City were filled with people celebrating his strong victory with 52.9% of the vote, according to the latest official estimates.
“It’s like hope is back in Mexico,” said Laura Cervantes, 23, who voted for the first time.
AMLO, as he is called in Mexico, had not yet given his victory speech but was already facing tall orders from ordinary Mexicans.
“I believe Lopez Obrador has the power to change my son’s future,” said a mother at the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square.
“AMLO has the power to wipe the government clean of all corruption,” assured taxi driver Ricardo Pérez.
The new president-elect, who won the presidency by promising big changes while putting concrete proposals on the back burner, is now expected to deliver. He has promised to confront Mexico’s three open wounds: rampant corruption, escalating violence and gaping inequalities.
During outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term, 22 governors out of 32 were accused of embezzlement. In addition, 2017 was the most violent year ever recorded in Mexico, with more than 25,000 homicides. Meanwhile, the richest Mexicans currently hold 34.8% of the country’s wealth while the poorest only hold 2.2%, according to World Bank data.
“AMLO will not be able to accomplish everything he has promised. But it will already be a big achievement if he implements a new approach to these three topics,” said Daniel Moreno, director of national news portal Animal Politico.
To keep the people’s backing intact, Lopez Obrador is expected to use a mix of long- and short-term reforms.
“He will have to implement quickly his long-term policies to transform the country so they can deliver later on. But he will need to show that things are changing from the beginning as well,” Moreno added.
It was a combination he mastered when serving as Mexico City’s governor from 2000-2005, a mandate he ended with good approval rates.
One of the most symbolic measures Lopez Obrador should resort to is putting an end to the impunity that surrounds corrupt members of the Mexican elite.
“Corruption is everywhere,” an AMLO supporter pointed out on Sunday night. “Only in Mexico is it completely unpunished.”
The president-elect will start ruling the country in December. The five-month transition period will be key to a good start. AMLO’s victory marks the first time the left has come to power in Mexico. The bulk of his troops aren’t familiar with the workings of institutional power which the long-serving parties have been holding for years.
According to Moreno, it has started under good auspices, as both presidential challengers José Antonio Meade (PRI, outgoing ruling party) and Ricardo Anaya (PAN, right) conceded defeat on the night of the elections -- an unusually quick epilogue in a country where electoral results are traditionally widely contentious.
"Besides winning the presidency, Lopez Obrador’s coalition [of Morena/labor party PT/evangelist party PES] is expected to gain an absolute majority in both chambers of Congress, according to the latest official estimates [of 307 seats out of 500 in the Lower House and 68 out of 128 in the Senate]".
If confirmed by the definitive results, it will be the first time in 20 years that a president will have a total free hand to govern -- a dangerous lack of counterpower, many argue.
To Moreno, it puts even more pressure on the left.
“The left has always been in opposition, where it’s easy to criticize. It now holds all the cards and will have to deliver.”
Lopez Obrador is expected to use this power to undo some of Peña Nieto’s emblematic reforms. In his first interview as president-elect Thursday on Mexican channel Imagen TV, he confirmed that educational reform, which has been widely rejected by teachers, would be cancelled.
“We are going to present another, distinct plan. The reform cannot be carried out without the teachers, as it is they who transfer knowledge in the classrooms”, AMLO said.
He also indicated that he would not cancel the energetic reform but thoroughly revise it.
“We will revise every contract one by one. We do not want them to carry corruption nor affect our national interest”, he warned.
On Monday, Lopez Obrador spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone. Both leaders used a diplomatic tone, which stands in stark contrast with previous conversations that leaders of the two countries have had.
“I suggested that we explore an integral agreement on development projects which generate jobs in Mexico, reduce migration and improve security. There was respectful treatment, and our representatives will speak more,” Lopez Obrador said on Twitter.
“I think he’s going to try and help us with the border,” Trump told reporters.
Lopez Obrador, who has always favored national politics over foreign affairs, has previously said he would sit down at the negotiating table to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in favor of Mexico. He has also pointed out that “no NAFTA is better than a bad NAFTA”, indicating that he would not make unnecessary concessions.