Mexican president keeps Congress, vows to focus on poor

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) and his wife Betriz Gutierrez show their thumbs after voting in Mexico City, on June 6, 2021. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador kept control of Congress in mid-term elections but suffered losses to an opposition seeking to capitalize on discontent over his record on the economy and fighting crime, early results showed.

Lopez Obrador said on Monday he was committed to doing more for the poor when asked how he would respond to the outcome of Sunday's mid-term elections.

Lopez Obrador was speaking to reporters at a regular government news conference.

Lopez Obrador's leftist National Regeneration Movement went into the vote with 253 seats in the lower house. According to INE projections, it will win between 190 and 203

A preliminary estimate by the National Electoral Institute (INE) after Sunday's elections put Lopez Obrador's ruling coalition on course to win between 265 and 292 of the 500 lower-house seats, short of the two-thirds majority he managed to muster in the first half of his term.

The outcome was roughly in line with final opinion polls, which showed the race tightening after a fatal metro accident in Mexico City and accusations that Lopez Obrador had intervened excessively in the campaign.

Lopez Obrador hailed the outcome on Monday as a further step forward for democracy. He thanked the public for ensuring his political project would still have a majority in the lower house, and with it, control of the federal budget.

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He told a news conference the elections were "free and clean" and that, unlike in the past, they had not been subject to intervention by the state.

Lopez Obrador has attacked his predecessors as corrupt and in hock to corporate interests who fomented poverty, inequality and violence. But he has struggled to deliver on pledges to combat gang violence and lift anemic growth.

"We need a government that's more open to what business is proposing," said Enrique Prendas, 56, a Mexico City resident who voted for Lopez Obrador in 2018 but this time switched his vote to the center-right National Action Party (PAN).

Lopez Obrador's leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) went into the vote with 253 seats in the lower house. According to INE projections, it will win between 190 and 203.

The new lower house will be seated in September.

MORENA and its allies won 42.3 percent of votes cast for the lower house, according to a preliminary count of 58 percent of ballots. The main opposition alliance was slightly behind on 40.7 percent.

MORENA's individual tally was far ahead of its nearest rival, giving it a clear advantage in picking up seats from the 300 awarded under a first-past-the-post system. The remaining 200 house seats are divvied up via proportional representation.

To defend its majority, MORENA will rely on votes from the Labor Party (PT) and the Green Party, a political grouping that has proven adept at forging alliances with whoever is in power.

The lower-house losses are likely to curb scope for Lopez Obrador to pursue constitutional changes to bolster his drive to tighten state control of the energy sector.

At regional level, many of the preliminary vote tallies suggested MORENA had a successful election, winning the bulk of the 15 state governorships up for grabs and enlarging the party's footprint across the country.

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One exception was in the Mexican capital.

Mexico City has been a bastion for Lopez Obrador since he rose to national prominence as mayor from 2000 to 2005. Early results suggested MORENA had lost control of a number of the capital's 16 boroughs, which it previously dominated.