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LATIN AMERICA | 07-06-2021 13:00

AMLO’s wings clipped with Mexico bloc set to lose super-majority

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s coalition is on course to lose its super-majority in Mexico's lower house after key midterm elections, according to initial results.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s coalition is on course to lose its super-majority in the lower house after midterm elections, dealing a blow to his chances of passing constitutional reforms to further his nationalist agenda.

The president’s Morena party and allies will hold between 265 and 292 seats in the 500-person chamber – far short of their current two-thirds majority, according to a partial tally of Sunday’s voting by the country’s electoral institute.

Bonds and the peso rose in early trading as it became increasingly likely that López Obrador will encounter stronger checks on his power in parliament.

While the president was not on the ballot, the drop in support for his party suggests that his star may be waning three years after winning a landslide. Mexico suffered among the highest death tolls from the pandemic, while his failure to curb corruption and the appalling bloodshed across the country were seen as setbacks for Morena going into the vote. The elections ended up being one of the most violent in Mexican history.

The smaller majority will make it significantly harder for López Obrador to achieve his goal of passing sweeping legislative changes, most notably to Mexico’s key energy sector. After enjoying hefty majorities in both chambers of congress since taking office in late 2018, López Obrador will now have to deal with a stronger opposition as he tries to deliver his ambitious reform of Mexico, known as the “fourth transformation.”

“The results are a big setback for Morena and the president in the sense that they will have to negotiate going forward,” said Verónica Ortiz, a political analyst in Mexico City, who argued that López Obrador will become more radical and attempt to rule by decree and referendum. “He really doesn’t have the disposition of a negotiator.”

Morena’s individual tally will fall from the 253 seats it now holds to between 190 and 203 seats, forcing it to work with current allies to keep its simple majority. It will take home between 34.9 and 35.8 percent of the vote, down from the 37.3 percent it won in 2018. The opposition PAN came in second with 106 to 117 seats, followed by the PRI with 63 to 75 seats.

The election was blighted by violence, with dozens of candidates murdered, kidnapped or attacked. On top of the lower house, 15 state governorships and hundreds of city halls and local legislatures were up for grabs. Turnout was between 51.7 and 52.5 percent, the electoral authority said on Sunday night.

Other headwinds that may have resulted in the president’s wings being clipped include his regular outbursts at the media and “elites:” While they play well with his base in the poorer south, they risk alienating the key strata of more educated voters who backed him three years ago in a revolt against the established parties’ failure to tackle corruption. A deadly metro accident in Mexico City also damaged his government in a core stronghold.

The outcome “puts the brakes on the president’s project to transform the country, at least on constitutional matters,” said Javier Martin Reyes, a political scientist at research center CIDE in Mexico City. “The risk is that López Obrador keeps betting on decrees and laws that are probably unconstitutional, generating more tension, making the judicial power more important.”

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by Max de Haldevang, Bloomberg

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