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Mexico’s President AMLO Set To See His Power Diminish In Elections Marred By Violence

Many people, including President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) himself, had portrayed this weekend’s midterm elections as a referendum on AMLO’s presidency and his Morena party. And based on official projections based on early results, Mexicans delivered AMLO and his party a reduced majority that will make sweeping change more difficult.

AMLO and his Morena party will likely see their majority shrink at several levels of government.

The election on Sunday was the largest in the nation’s history, with more than 20,000 posts up for grabs and more than 95 million eligible voters. And, according to official figures, the ruling party is set to lose its qualified majority in the lower house of Congress. This will have a major impact on AMLO’s ability to pass major legislative and constitutional reforms which have been a top priority for the president.

According to preliminary results, AMLO’s Morena party walked away with approximately 35% of the vote on Sunday which will leave them with between 190 and 203 seats in the lower house – down from 256 currently. However, together with its partner the Green Party, AMLO will still control between 265 and 292 of the 500 seats.

Mexicans also chose 15 state governors and state lawmakers on Sunday, and initial results show that Morena won most of the state races.

What does this mean for AMLO’s presidency?

Although President AMLO was not on the ballot, the elections are a clear indicator of his support around the country. Since taking office in 2018 after a landslide victory, AMLO has centralized power within his administration and radically cut back on the cost of government so he can channel resources to the poor and his key infrastructure projects.

His critics say that he has also diminished the country’s democracy by eroding institutional checks and balances and by going after long-trusted autonomous government agencies, including the Bank of Mexico and the Federal Election Commission (INE).

He “promised change but everything is the same or worse. Violence is out of control and the economy is stalled. I don’t see real good options,” 32-year old undecided voter Jorge Lopez in the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Polanco, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

Olivia Aguirre, a 32-year-old academic in Mexico City who voted for AMLO in 2012 and 2018, said she was disillusioned with him over his dismissal of women’s protests, lack of support for renewable energy and what she called the “authoritarian” drift of his government. “I’m not happy about the direction the country is headed,” she told Reuters after voting for the opposition in the city’s Roma district.

But his populist style – he drives his own Volkswagen car and flies commercial airlines – has helped him maintain his personal popularity, especially among many middle and lower class Mexicans.

This year’s elections were marred by political violence.

In one incident on Sunday, a man threw a severed head at a voting station in Tijuana as people were actively voting. Human remains were also found in at least two voting booths in Baja California, while in Sinaloa, several voting centers were forced to close early after facing threats from armed groups.

The lead up to the election was also exceptionally violent. According to a report by risk management consultancy Etellekt, 96 politicians have been assassinated since the electoral campaign began in September last year. Thirty-five of those murdered were candidates running for office.

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