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Lopez Obrador wins PRD nomination

November 15, 2011

It has all the makings of a Hollywood script: the man who claims he was robbed of the presidency in 2006 will return to contest the 2012 election in a bid to save his nation from spiraling drug-violence and widening economic inequality.

Having outperformed rival Marcelo Ebrard in a poll of public support, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has won the nomination of the Mexican left for next year’s presidential election, it was announced midday Tuesday.

AMLO, as he is commonly known, will head a coalition of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT) and the Citizens Movement (Convergence).

The more leftist of the pair, Lopez Obrador performed better than his rival in three of five questions put to 6,000 voters by two polling agencies, one selected by each candidate. Ebrard, the current mayor of Mexico City, promised to respect the decision and support his former opponent’s campaign.

“A divided left would only take Mexico to the precipice,” said Ebrard, who at 52 is seven years younger than Lopez Obrador, and will likely still lead Mexico’s left in the 2018 election.

“Besides being a good friend, Ebrard is an exceptional political leader,” responded Lopez Obrador, equally keen to present a united front. “By putting the hopes of thousands of Mexicans over his legitimate aspirations, he has demonstrated that with a united left, the transformation of public life is possible.”

The PRD is the first of the three major parties to formally nominate a candidate ahead of the election campaigns which officially begin in February. The leftist alliance faces a tough task in attempting to overcome the incumbent National Action Party (PAN) and the resurgent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is favorite to reclaim power after a 12-year absence.

Lopez Obrador lost the 2006 election by less than one percent of the vote, amid widespread allegations of voter fraud against the victor Felipe Calderon. The PRD candidate refused to recognize Calderon’s victory and maintains that he is head of Mexico’s “legitimate government.”

His repeated insistence that he was robbed of the presidency and the subsequent protests of his supporters – who occupied the main plaza in Mexico City and blocked the city’s Avenida Reforma for weeks – contributed to a decline in the popularity of Lopez Obrador and his party.

Split by internal divisions, the PRD has seen its support eroded in recent years, even in former strongholds such as Michoacan where the party finished a dismal third in Sunday’s state elections.

Enrique Peña Nieto, meanwhile, remains the man to beat. The former governor of Mexico state looks certain to win the PRI candidacy and is firm favorite to win the presidency next July. Responding to Lopez Obrador’s triumph this week, Peña Nieto said he was “sure the PRI is en route to winning the presidential election” and affirmed he is ready to compete “with whoever” should challenge him.

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