Who is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador?
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one of the most influential and unique political figures in Mexico in the past decade. Born and raised in the Gulf state of Tabasco, he grew up in a modest family. At an early age he developed an interest in politics and became a disciple of a socially conscious Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) politician from his home state. After first pursuing a career in the government party and ultimately being blocked from advancing within that party, he joined the Democratic Current within the PRI and then the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and in 1994 ran as a candidate for governor of his home state against Roberto Madrazo, a leader of the traditionalist, antidemocratic wing of the PRI in a highly fraudulent election. In 1999, he took over the presidency of the PRD, and when elections were held for only the second time for governor of the Federal District, Lopez Obrador won in 2000. As governor of the Federal District, Lopez Obrador succeeded in demonstrating his administrative skills and his social and economic policy preferences. He introduced a number of innovative programs, including antipoverty programs designed to improve the economic status of Mexico's elderly population. He could be described as a populist with a charismatic appeal for many Mexicans. His constant exposure in the national media, which is centered in Mexico City, placed him in an excellent position to capture his own party's nomination, essentially without a formal election. Before Lopez Obrador ran officially as a candidate, the attorney general of Mexico indicated he was going to bring a suit against him for violating a legal regulation he ignored as governor. Most observers viewed this decision as an attempt by the Fox administration to derail his presidential ambitions, since if convicted he would be ineligible to be a candidate. He received the backing of many Mexicans, as well as the Catholic Church, which openly stated that the public wished to consider him a viable candidate and demanded that the government drop its case. This controversy only gave Lopez Obrador more notoriety, and the government withdrew its intention to prosecute him. Early polls showed that he was the most widely recognized presidential candidate in Mexico and the most popular among the candidates of the three leading parties. He failed to win the 2006 election, but he managed to shape the election. His refusal to recognize the election results as legal and his continued antagonistic behavior led to a decline in his popularity, even among many of his original supporters. Nevertheless, as the 2012 presidential race unfolded, he once again became the overwhelming choice of the PRD partisans, running against Josefina Vazquez Mota, the National Action Party (PAN) nominee and the first female presidential candidate from a major party, and Enrique Pena Nieto, the PRI candidate who defeated Lopez Obrador with 38 percent of the vote (versus Lopez Obrador's 32 percent). Again, Lopez Obrador charged electoral fraud, ultimately leaving the PRD and forming his own party, the Movement for Renovation (Morena), which earned the fourth-largest vote (8 percent) in the 2015 congressional elections after the
PRI (29 percent), PAN (21 percent), and PRD (11 percent). In 2016, only 8 percent of Mexicans said they would favor the Morena candidate in the 2018 presidential election. The party performed poorly in the 2016 gubernatorial contests.