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Legislative majority is at stake in Mexico

by The Associated Press | June 7, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, wearing protective face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, and first lady Beatriz Gutierrez walk away after voting in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if Obrador's Morena party gets a legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY -- Mexicans went to the polls Sunday to elect the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine whether President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority it needs to continue his "Fourth Transformation" of Mexico.

Lopez Obrador's critics have depicted the elections as a chance to stop the still-popular president from concentrating more power and weakening checks and balances. The president says the opposition is dominated by conservatives who oppose his campaign against corruption and wasteful spending.

Gallery: Mexico's mid-term elections

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He has complained about courts and independent regulatory agencies that have blocked some of his tougher proposals to empower state-owned industries. Opponents fear that if he wins a majority, he may try to subjugate courts and regulatory agencies created during Mexico's decades-long transition to full democracy.

Mexico City homemaker Dolores Martinez said she was pleased with Lopez Obrador's anti-corruption fight, after decades of corrupt administrations.

"I like it a lot," Martinez said as she waited to vote. "There has to be transparency."

But other voters said they were disappointed by Lopez Obrador.

"The pandemic was poorly managed," said Teresita Loza, who waited in line to vote with her daughter, Sara Loza, 33. The elder Loza, 53, said the president's programs had handed out money, but hadn't created results.

As for much of the campaign, violence marked the days leading up to the vote.

On Saturday, an employee of the state prosecutors' office in Chiapas who was not authorized to be quoted said five people who were carrying voting material to polling places were ambushed and killed on a rural highway. They appeared to be volunteers, not government employees.

Three dozen candidates, mostly for local posts, have been killed and a government electoral agency worker was shot to death Friday in Tlaxcala state, near Mexico City.

Of the country's 32 state governorships, 15 are at stake, and all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress. Almost 20,000 local posts including mayors and town council seats are being decided in 30 states, and those have often been the most violence-scarred races.

Experts say criminal gangs have sought to influence the elections, while the government ascribes most of the killings to other questions and said they weren't necessarily related to elections. The country's electoral authority, however, said the elections will be among the most thoroughly monitored in history with more than 19,000 registered observers and violence at polling places themselves is relatively rare.

Lopez Obrador has raised minimum wages and strengthened government aid programs like supplementary payments to the elderly and 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, including trains, an oil refinery and airports.

The Mexican president has not hewed to a traditional leftist line.

Opponents depict him as intolerant of criticism and obsessed with a nostalgic 1960s vision of Mexico, when oil was king and state-owned companies dominated many sectors of the economy. Socially conservative and a professed Christian "in the broadest sense," he has angered feminists with his policies, but has pleased many Mexicans by living austerely.

The elections represent the first mass public events since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country over a year ago, though case numbers have fallen and Mexico has vaccinated about a quarter of adults.

Information for this article was contributed by Manuel de la Cruz of The Associated Press.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves to supporters as he walks with first lady Beatriz Gutierrez after voting in congressional, state and local elections in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if  Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves to supporters as he walks with first lady Beatriz Gutierrez after voting in congressional, state and local elections in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Evelyn Salgado, right, and her father Felix Salgado Macedonio thumb ap after she voted in mid-term elections in Acapulco, Mexico, Sunday, June 6, 2021.  Evelyn Salgado runs for governor of the Guerrero state with the ruling Morena party in place of her father, whose candidacy was canceled by an electoral court for violations to campaign spending rules, following months of protests over allegations of rape against him. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Evelyn Salgado, right, and her father Felix Salgado Macedonio thumb ap after she voted in mid-term elections in Acapulco, Mexico, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Evelyn Salgado runs for governor of the Guerrero state with the ruling Morena party in place of her father, whose candidacy was canceled by an electoral court for violations to campaign spending rules, following months of protests over allegations of rape against him. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thumbs up after voting in congressional, state and local elections in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if  Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thumbs up after voting in congressional, state and local elections in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
A woman shows her ID before voting in Acapulco, Mexico, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans are electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A woman shows her ID before voting in Acapulco, Mexico, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans are electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
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