Former First Lady and Independent Candidate Zavala Quits Mexico’s Presidential Race

Margarita Zavala (PHOTO: wsj.com)

Mexican independent presidential candidate Margarita Zavala is quitting the race ahead of the nation’s July 1 vote, a move that potentially boosts the chances for the major-party rivals to leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Zavala announced her decision on Wednesday in an interview recorded with broadcaster Televisa and posted on the Twitter account of Foro TV. Zavala, a former first lady, left the National Action Party over a dispute with Ricardo Anaya, who became the party’s candidate and is running second, almost twenty points behind Lopez Obrador, based on Bloomberg’s poll tracker.

The peso jumped as some investors believe Zavala’s decision may help Anaya or Jose Antonio Meade — the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party — close the gap with Lopez Obrador and reach the presidency. The currency had slumped to a one-year low on speculation that Lopez Obrador, who has unsettled investors with proposals that include delaying parts of the nation’s oil-industry opening and canceling the construction of a new airport in Mexico City, was cementing his lead.

“I am withdrawing my candidacy from the race out of a principle of congruence, out of a principle of political honesty, but also to free those who generously supported me so they can make their decision as they should in this difficult race for Mexico,” Zavala said.

Margarita Zavala’s resignation may potentially hurt front-runner Lopez Obrador. (PHOTO: wsj.com)

Zavala’s husband, Felipe Calderon, defeated Lopez Obrador in 2006 in a presidential race decided by less than one percentage point. Lopez Obrador, who ran for the presidency twice, claimed fraud and refused to accept the result. Anaya has called for Zavala to quit the race and join forces with him to prevent Lopez Obrador from winning. In the excerpt of the interview, Zavala didn’t throw her support behind a specific candidate. She and her husband also have a history of work with Meade, who served in Calderon’s cabinet.

“Zavala dropping out could provide additional support to some of the other parties,” said Eric Viloria, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York.

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