June 27, 2018 / 5:08 AM / 3 months ago

Wind in sails, Mexican leftist heads to giant stadium for campaign finale

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican presidential favourite Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is due to wrap up his election campaign on Wednesday in the country’s largest soccer stadium, fortified by a new opinion poll showing his already-commanding lead growing even further.

Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador greets supporters during a campaign rally, in Cancun, Mexico June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Israel Leal

After failing in two previous runs at the presidency, Lopez Obrador’s popularity has grown in tandem with Mexicans anger at traditional parties’ failure to subdue record levels of violence and end corruption.

A new poll published on Wednesday by Mexican firm Parametria showed him with 45 percent of the vote, compared to 19 percent for rival Ricardo Anaya.

If victorious in Sunday’s election, Lopez Obrador, 64, will become Mexico’s first left-leaning president in generations, promising to end politicians’ perks and raise living standards for the poor.

“We are going to purify public life in Mexico,” he said at a rally in Cancun on Tuesday, vowing he would live in his own modest apartment if elected, turning the presidential residence into an arts centre.

A former mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador plans to review a 2013 opening of the oil industry to private producers. His history of protest politics has unnerved some investors, although he has courted Wall Street throughout the campaign.

While Mexico’s peso sank to a 1-1/2-year low this month, its weakness has mostly been blamed on a global selloff in emerging markets as well as a deadlock in talks to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Lopez Obrador’s strong will, sharp tongue and determination to upend politics have drawn comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Victory could heighten tensions between Mexico and the United States over trade and migration if the two men clash.

Like Trump, he is an adept user of social media. On Tuesday, he took to Twitter to accuse Amazon.com Inc of showing a documentary series that was unfavourable to him as part of a “dirty war.”

A supporter of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a framed photograph of him during a campaign rally, in Cancun, Mexico June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Israel Leal

STADIUM POLITICS

His rivals, ruling party candidate Jose Antonio Meade and Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition, are fighting each other for second place on the last day of campaigning.

They will close their campaigns at events in the centre and north of the country.

Lopez Obrador, who faced an almost an empty stadium at a rally last week that coincided with Mexico’s World Cup soccer match against South Korea, is aiming to fill the 87,000 capacity Azteca stadium, helped by a performance by pop star Belinda.

His preferred venue for major events, Mexico City’s vast Zocalo main square, is being used to host public viewings of World Cup matches, including a game pitting Mexico against Sweden on Wednesday morning.

The alternative choice of the iconic Azteca, owned by top TV network Televisa, is widely seen as symbolic of a new, begrudging acceptance among Mexico’s political and business elites.

Televisa has for decades been associated in Mexicans’ minds with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the stadium hosted outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign finale in 2012.

Successive Mexican governments embraced market capitalism since the PRI veered away from statist economics in the early 1980s, breaking with presidents stretching back to the Mexican revolution and including Lazaro Cardenas, who nationalized the oil industry in 1938.

While Lopez Obrador vows an end to “neoliberalism,” it is not yet clear how radical he would be. Supporters say he has mellowed, and he has invited former rivals to join his MORENA party.

“Andres has evolved. He is a better person... more grounded, a more mature man,” said senior campaign aide Tatiana Clouthier, previously a member of a conservative party.

Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Christine Murray; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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