MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s ruling party won both state governors offices up for grabs in Sunday’s elections, preliminary results showed, delivering a boost to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador after a challenging start to his administration.
Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) was expected to triumph in the central state of Puebla and in Baja California on the U.S. border, despite surging levels of violence and an economy in reverse.
The National Electoral Institute said on Monday results showed MORENA’s Puebla candidate Miguel Barbosa won 44.7% of votes, over 10 percentage points clear of his nearest rival after an initial count of returns from all polling stations.
Meanwhile, the party’s contender in Baja California, Jaime Bonilla, won 50.3% of the vote, more than double the amount secured by his closest challenger, according to a first count of more than 93% of returns, the electoral institute said.
Lopez Obrador has built his political brand by vowing to combat inequality and root out public sector corruption, which he says is a legacy of his adversaries’ years in power.
Hammering home the point has enabled him to discredit a weak and divided opposition, which is struggling to present attractive alternative visions of government to voters.
MORENA, which formally took shape in 2014, secured its first state governorships the day of Lopez Obrador’s July 2018 landslide election victory. The party and its allies also control both houses of Mexico’s federal Congress.
In office since December, the 65-year-old Lopez Obrador faces tough challenges in coming weeks with the economy contracting in the first quarter and a damaging tariff dispute with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.
Trump said on Thursday he would hit all Mexican exports to the United States with a 5% tariff from June 10 unless Mexico stops a surge in illegal immigrants from Central America reaching the U.S. border.
Around 80% of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, making the threat a major worry for Mexican business.
Mexican and U.S. officials have begun initial soundings to avert a tariff clash, though Mexico on Monday reiterated it would not accept a U.S. idea to house Central American migrants trying to reach the United States.
Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Grant McCool