MEXICO CITY—President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s party and its allies on Monday appeared poised to maintain their majority in Mexico’s lower chamber of the congress, but fell short of a two-thirds majority as some voters boosted the opposition, according to initial election results.
Electoral authorities released “quick count” results based on voting samples that allow estimates of the voting trends to determine the rough potential makeup of the Chamber of Deputies late Sunday.
López Obrador’s Morena party will have to rely on votes from its allies in the Workers Party and Green Party, but together they were expected to capture between 265 and 292 seats in the 500-seat chamber. Morena alone was expected to win 190 to 203 seats.
That would signal a significant decline for the president’s party. In the current congress, Morena has a simple majority, holding 253 seats on its own. It would also deprive the president of a qualified majority of two-thirds required to approve constitutional reforms.
López Obrador appeared to acknowledge that new reality Monday. He praised the election as “free, clean” and said Mexicans had shown a degree of political maturity “never seen.”
“You voted for two different and opposed plans, above all in the federal election,” he said. “Those of the transformation plan are going to have the majority in the Chamber of Deputies and this means guaranteeing the sufficient budget for the most in need.”
The results give the president sufficient budgetary control to continue his train and refinery-building plans and cash handout programs, but may deny him congressional backing to escalate his ongoing spats with the courts and regulatory agencies.
The opposition alliance made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, National Action Party and Party of the Democratic Revolution were estimated to win between 181 and 213 seats. Those would be gains for those parties, which have often appeared rudderless in the face of López Obrador’s popularity.
Even without López Obrador on the ballot, the mid-term elections were seen by many as a referendum on his administration and his ability to continue what he calls the “Fourth Transformation” of Mexico. Turnout was high for mid-term elections, edging above 51 percent of eligible voters.
López Obrador’s party did better than expected in state governors’ races, and appeared headed for wins in at least ten of the 15 states up for grabs. But the president’s party was battered in Mexico City, long considered his stronghold and where he once served as mayor. The capital suffered more than many other areas during the coronavirus pandemic.
López Obrador’s critics had depicted the elections as a chance to stop the still-popular president from concentrating more power and weakening checks and balances. The president said the opposition is dominated by conservatives who oppose his campaign against corruption and wasteful spending.
López Obrador has complained about courts and independent regulatory agencies that have blocked some of his tougher proposals to empower state-owned industries. Opponents warned that if he won a majority, he might try to subjugate courts and regulatory agencies created during Mexico’s decades-long transition to full democracy.
After polls closed, Lorenzo Córdova, president of the National Electoral Institute, declared the election a success. He said only 30 of more than 130,000 polling places across the country were not able to open due to a variety of circumstances.
Half of those unopened polling places were in the southern state of Oaxaca where voting materials were stolen or damaged, institute Executive Secretary Edmundo Jacobo said Sunday night.
Representatives of the major parties speaking at the electoral institute’s general council meeting applauded the conduct of Sunday’s vote amid the pandemic.
López Obrador has raised minimum wages and strengthened government aid programs like supplementary payments to the elderly, students and training programs for youths. He has also created a quasi-military National Guard and given the army a huge role in building his pet projects, which include trains, an oil refinery and airports.
But he has not hewed to a traditional leftist line. He has maintained friendly relations with the United States and willingly helped keep tens of thousands of Central American migrants from reaching the U.S. border. He abhors government debt or waste.