Andrés Manuel López Obrador looked set to lose the two-thirds majority in Mexico’s lower house of Congress needed for constitutional changes, in midterm elections that he had portrayed as a referendum on his rule.
In a positive development for the populist president, however, his ruling Morena party claimed to have virtually swept elections for state governorships.
Official projections suggested Morena and his allies would command at least 58 per cent of the 500-seat Chamber of Deputies, or as many as 298 seats, according to Lorenzo Córdova, president of the National Electoral Institute (INE).
But the results looked set to fall far short of the tallies Morena and its allies had enjoyed in the first half of the president’s single six-year term.
“By not getting the results he was looking for . . . it’s probable [the president] will try to radicalise,” Jorge Zepeda Patterson, a political commentator, told Milenio Televisión.
Mexicans on Sunday voted in the biggest elections in the country’s history for the entire lower chamber plus 15 of Mexico’s 32 state governorships, as well as more than 20,000 local posts.
Mario Delgado, leader of Morena, earlier hailed what he called a “historic triumph” in which he said Morena would sweep 12 of the 15 governorships that had been up for grabs. Although in several states, multiple opposing candidates claimed victory, official results in those races were pending.
According to the INE projections, Morena could end up with 190 to 203 lower house seats, confirming it as easily the most popular party. Its allied parties — the Greens, the Workers’ party and PES — could garner another 95 seats, Córdova said.
However, it was not certain the PES party would pass the 3 per cent threshold needed to maintain its register; the INE projection estimated it would win between zero and six seats. Without PES, Morena, the Greens and the Workers’ party could clinch 265 to 292 seats, INE said.
Prior to the election, Morena and allies had 334 seats and Morena alone had 256.
The opposition Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI), National Action party (PAN) and Democratic Revolution party (PRD) teamed up to form an opposition bloc. PAN leader Marko Cortés said the partnership had succeeded in denying the ruling coalition “the qualified majority with which it has abused power for the last three years”.
“The majority of Mexicans wants to correct the direction of the country,” he said.
López Obrador, who says he is delivering a profound transformation of Mexico, eradicating corruption and levelling up living standards for the poor, did not immediately comment on the results. Political analysts have said he could challenge any adverse outcome.
Ciro Murayama, an INE electoral councillor, said the projected results showed that two out of three Mexicans did not support the ruling party.
Movimiento Ciudadano, which did not join the opposition bloc, secured as many as 27 votes, according to the INE. However, even if it sought to play kingmaker, its seats would not be enough to hand the ruling coalition the 334 seats it needed for a constitutional majority.
López Obrador has already passed legislation seeking to undo constitutional reforms in the energy sector passed by his predecessor but the laws are expected to face challenges at the Supreme Court.
The peso was little changed at about 19.90 to the US dollar.