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Mexico elects Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador president by wide margin

Monday - 02/07/2018 06:09
While his surge in the polls spooked many politicians and businessmen because of his leftist rhetoric, López Obrador said he supports NAFTA and promised to pursue cordial relations with Trump. 
Getty Images
Getty Images

MEXICO CITY —Left-leaning populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador easily won Mexico’s presidential election Sunday, in a victory that upends the country’s political order. 

All of his major rivals conceded quickly after polls closed at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Mexico's electoral authority gave López Obrador, who is also known as AMLO, between 53% and 53.8% of the vote — the highest total for a Mexican presidential candidate since 1982, when one-party rule was the norm. 

Speaking to the country Sunday night, López Obrador called for unity and pledged to govern "for the good of all, the poor first" and show a "special preference for the humble and most forgotten."

He said he would seek to establish "an authentic democracy" and that "changes will be deep."

In a move to reassure markets unsettled by his rise to power, López Obrador promised that the Bank of Mexico’s autonomy would be respected. "My government will maintain financial discipline," he said. 

On the topic of cross-border relations with the United States, López Obrador pledged "a relationship of friendship and cooperation for development, always based in mutual respect and the defense of our migrant (citizens) who live and work honorably in that country."

President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations and said of the election winner, "I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!"

More: Andrés Manuel López Obrador: Who is he?

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More: Amnesty for drug dealers? This Mexico presidential candidate is pushing for forgiveness

López Obrador supporters deliriously poured into massive Zócalo square in central Mexico City shortly after exit polls showed him winning. They waved Mexican flags, sang "Cielito Lindo" — a song of patriotism and unity — and chanted, "It’s an honor to be with López Obrador."

Sunday’s victory capped an improbable path to the presidency for López Obrador, 64, who has tirelessly toured the country over the past 12 years as he laid the groundwork for his political movement and tried to stay relevant as major media outlets often ignored him. He endured missteps and being written off. He lost a contentious 2006 election, which he considered rigged and refused to concede. He masqueraded as the country’s "legitimate president" for a period, in what critics mocked as an act of political theater. It was his third attempt at winning the presidency. 

López Obrador cast his ballot earlier in the day, saying, "More than an election, it’s going to be a referendum. People will decide between more of the same or real change."

The former mayor of Mexico City has promised to "uproot corruption," increase social spending and pursue a different approach to crack down on drug cartels. He has floated the idea of amnesty for some of those involved in the drug business.

The silver-haired López Obrador has condemned the two parties that traditionally have held the Mexican presidency as "the mafia in power" and promised to abolish corruption and bring organized crime to heel with an approach of "hugs not bullets."

And he will address what he considers the root cause of crime and violence: poverty.

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