By Miguel Gutierrez
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has widened his lead in the race to win the July 1 presidential election, opening up a gap of 22 percentage points, a poll by newspaper Reforma showed on Wednesday.
The April 12-15 voter poll showed Lopez Obrador winning 48 percent, a jump of six points from a February survey by Reforma. His nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who heads a right-left coalition, dropped by six points to 26 percent.
Running third was Jose Antonio Meade, candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose backing remained steady at 18 percent, the poll showed.
The figures for the three stripped out the 19 percent of respondents who expressed no preference. The poll surveyed 1,200 voters and had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
A separate survey by polling firm Mitofsky published late on Wednesday also showed Lopez Obrador pulling further ahead.
In that poll, Lopez Obrador garnered 31.9 percent support, up from 29.5 percent in a Mitofsky survey last month. Anaya trailed in second with 20.8 percent and Meade polled at 16.9 percent.
Lopez Obrador, a 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, has capitalized on widespread disenchantment with the PRI over political corruption, rising levels of violence and sluggish economic growth to consolidate his lead in recent weeks.
He says Mexico should reduce its economic dependence on foreign powers, and has vowed to put U.S. President Donald Trump “in his place” if he wins.
Trump’s barbs against Mexican immigrants and complaints that Mexico has taken advantage of the United States over trade have made him very unpopular south of the border, and a Lopez Obrador presidency could usher in a testier bilateral relationship.
Support for Anaya, a former leader of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), has slipped since he came under attack from rivals over allegations of financial impropriety in a property deal in his home state of Queretaro.
Anaya, 39, has denied any wrongdoing.
Runner-up in the last two presidential contests, Lopez Obrador has promised an “austere” budget, to be achieved by battling corruption and cutting government waste.
He has threatened to undo the centerpiece of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s economic agenda, the opening of the oil and gas industry to private investment. However, several top advisers say Lopez Obrador is unlikely to make major changes.
Lopez Obrador has raised doubts over the future of Mexico City’s $13 billion new airport, now well under construction. Arguing it is too expensive and tainted by corruption, he is threatening to scrap the hub for a cheaper alternative. That has put him at loggerheads with Mexico’s richest man Carlos Slim, who has a major stake in the project.
The Reforma survey also showed Lopez Obrador comfortably beating his two main rivals in direct head-to-head contests. Facing Anaya, he wins by a margin of 51 percent to 31 percent, and against the 49-year-old Meade, by 57 percent to 22 percent.
Lopez Obrador’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is poised to become the largest in Congress, four years after it was formally registered, the Reforma poll showed.
No party has held an outright majority since 1997 and it was not clear MORENA would do so either under the mix of direct election and proportional representation Mexico uses.
MORENA was projected to win 37 percent of support in voting for the lower house of Congress, the PAN 21 percent and the PRI 17 percent, the Reforma survey showed.
The leftist Labor Party (PT), which is allied to MORENA, had 5 percent of support. Another MORENA ally, the socially conservative Social Encounter Party, polled 1 percent, below the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Congress.
(Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler)