Mexico's governing party pick registers for presidential poll

Monday, March 19, 2018

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MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Jose Antonio Meade formally registered Sunday as the Mexican governing party's presidential candidate, promising to end the immunity that has long shielded corrupt officials from prosecution.

“To the Mexican people who are angry about corruption, we are committed to leading an honest government,” the former foreign minister said after registering his candidacy for the July 1 elections with the National Electoral Institute (INE).

But Meade's bid to keep the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of President Enrique Pena Nieto in power faces several challengers, led by fiery leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who registered his candidacy Friday with a vow to “transform” the country.

In his third bid for the presidency, Lopez Obrador, who is 64, is riding a wave of discontent with politics-as-usual, especially the corruption-plagued PRI of Pena Nieto.

But many Mexicans are wary of just how radical a change he and his leftist Morena party could represent. And despite his vows to fight corruption, he has been criticised for links to graft-tainted figures.

Polls also show Meade trailing 39-year-old Ricardo Anaya former president of the conservative National Action Party, but leading a few independent candidates.

Meade, who is 48 and also a former finance minister, has been trying to define himself as a more open and transparent politician as he battles to overcome a steep drop in the PRI's popularity.

Together with the PRI, Meade heads a coalition that includes the Green Ecologist Party and the New Alliance.

He said he would ask all coalition parties to support an initiative to eliminate immunity for politicians at all levels, shouting, “Everyone equal before the law, and the law above all!”

Meade also vowed to take on the country's serious problems with drug-related violence and inequality.

When they go to the polls on July 1, voters will also elect members to both houses of Congress. It will be a first electoral run for Meade, a man known for leading a discreet life, removed from the corruption scandals that have reached up even to Pena Nieto.

Recent surveys put Lopez Obrador's support around 35 per cent, with Anaya in the low 20s and Meade in the teens.

In Mexico's first-past-the-post election system, that would put Lopez Obrador on track to win — though nothing is certain — with the official campaign beginning only on March 30, a day after the INE officially approves candidates' applications.

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