The party of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was set to win a major opposition bastion in a state election on Sunday, preliminary figures showed, giving the country’s leader a boost as he seeks to pave the way for a successor next year.
In the State of Mexico gubernatorial race, Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) was expected to win 52.1 to 54.2% support, while the candidate running for an opposition alliance was forecast to garner 43.0 to 45.2% of the vote, the state’s electoral institute said.
The most populous region of the country, the State of Mexico surrounds much of the capital and has been an economic and electoral bulwark of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has governed there since 1929.
“It’s been a 100 long years of corruption and neglect, but times change,” MORENA’s candidate Delfina Gomez told a cheering crowd after claiming victory when polls closed.
Gomez would be the first woman to govern the state, and victory would add the state to the 21 regional governments MORENA already controls, two-thirds of the total.
Lopez Obrador routed the PRI to win the presidency in 2018, and MORENA has since absorbed most of the once-dominant party’s strongholds, alongside many of its politicians.
The voting comes a year before Mexico’s next presidential election, with polls indicating MORENA will be hard to beat.
Decades of one-party rule made the PRI a byword for corruption among many Mexicans, and it has struggled to compete with MORENA’s message that it represents a vote for change.
Jobita Pena, a 67-year-old homemaker in the municipality of Tlalnepantla on Mexico City’s northern edge, said she wanted MORENA to bring change to the state of 17 million people.
“For a better Mexico, for new projects, which really are delivered this time,” Pena said.
Gomez vowed to give a fresh start to the state and to improve security, mindful of widespread concern over violence.
Her opponent, Alejandra del Moral, a PRI politician heading the opposition ticket, said her party had learned from its mistakes, and that she represented a broader alternative.
In a separate election, initial results showed the PRI was poised to easily maintain the northern border state of Coahuila, where MORENA was riven by party infighting.
Lopez Obrador has dominated political life since taking office in December 2018, and his popularity, holding firm around 60%, has helped make MORENA a formidable electoral machine. Under Mexican law, presidents may serve only one six-year term.
Nevertheless, his abrasive style and uncompromising agenda, which has pitted the state against private enterprise, and fueled conflict with curbs on that power such as the judiciary, have polarized voters. In 2021, MORENA suffered a backlash in and around the capital in local elections.
Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has had a slight edge in most polling for the race to be MORENA’s presidential candidate, closely followed by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Sheinbaum, like Gomez, MORENA’s State of Mexico candidate, is closely identified with Lopez Obrador and his policies.
Some analysts say a decisive MORENA victory in the state should augur well for her hopes for the presidential ticket.