Mexicans went to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, after a long campaign marred by corruption and violence.
The election turnout is predicted to be one of the largest in Mexico’s history, with 89 million people eligible to vote, according to The New York Times.
Voters will also cast ballots for scores of non-presidential posts, including 128 Senate seats, 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies — Mexico’s lower congressional house — and nearly 3,000 mayoral and local government seats.
Recent polls showed the favored presidential candidate, 64-year-oldAndrés Manuel López Obrador, with a nearly 26-point lead over his next closest opponent, 39-year-old Ricardo Anaya, the former president of the center-right National Action Party.
An aggregate of several surveys compiled by Bloomberg showed López Obrado with more than 51 percent support, and he is widely expected to win the election, posing a new threat to the Trump administration and U.S.-Mexico relations.
López Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City and left-wing nationalist who ran for president in 2006 and 2012, has drawn the support of Mexican voters with his populist policies, many of which mirror those of President Trump.
The lifelong politician, known affectionately to his supporters as Amlo — a nickname taken from his initials — has promised to crack down on crime, drug violence, and political corruption. He also has been critical of free trade. Politico notes however that, unlike Trump, he has traditionally been a backer of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“[Our] plan is to uproot this corrupt regime of injustices and privilege. The central problem is corruption, which is the main cause of social and economic inequality, violence and other ills,” he told a crowd of 80,000 supporters at Azteca Stadium Wednesday, during a pre-election rally, referring to current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has been plagued by allegations of embezzlement and several conflicts of interest.
By law, Peña Nieto cannot run for another term, although it’s unlikely he would even if he were able: the Mexican president’s approval rating has been hovering around 20 percent for months, reaching as low as 17 percent in January.
López Obrador has proposed a policy similar to Trump’s “America First” agenda, pledging to end oil exports by 2022, ending deepwater drilling, and reconsidering all current drilling contracts — a move guaranteed to deliver a heavy blow to both the American oil industry and Mexico’s economy itself.
López Obrador also has pledged to support business and banks, claiming he won’t raise taxes but will instead fund any social initiatives using money recovered from his crackdown on domestic political corruption.
“I will support banks,” he said, speaking to a group of wealthy bankers in March. “We won’t confiscate assets. No expropriations, no nationalizations. We’ll have a country more focused on its main problem: the cancer of corruption. That’s my proposal, to end corruption.”
The former Mexico City mayor is also an ardent critic of Trump’s foreign policy, slamming the U.S. president’s proposal for a border wall between the United States and Mexico and pledging his support for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“Mexico and its people will not be the pinata of any foreign government,” he said in April, speaking to supporters. “It’s not with walls or use of force that you resolve social problems.”
He also has slammed Trump’s family separation policy — under which immigrant children are forcibly removed from their parents and detained in prisons or internment camps — as “arrogant, racist and inhuman.”
The rift between Trump and López Obrador — who share deeply nationalistic tendencies — could prove explosive if the latter is elected Sunday.
“As far as the United States is concerned, if the Trump era has strained relations with Mexico, Amlo’s election could change the dynamic even more drastically,” Jorge Guajardo, former Mexican ambassador to China and National Action Party member, wrote for The Atlantic Thursday.
“In the best of circumstances, both countries would continue to ignore each other. In the worst, Trump would continue alienating Mexico in a way that will take generations to repair.”
Sunday’s elections come amid one of Mexico’s bloodiest years in recent history. In 2017, Mexico had an average murder rate of approximately 2,300 victims per month, surpassing levels seen even during the height of the country’s drug war. This year is on track to yield similarly devastating numbers.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, according to a study released in April by the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank, Mexico, along with Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, accounted for a quarter of all global homicides since the start of this century.
López Obrador has promised to stem the bloodshed by offering amnesty to low-level cartel members and poor farmers growing poppies for opium, and focusing on economic policies that prevent people from turning to drugs. He has suggested that sending police and soldiers into the streets to stop the violence will do little to prevent further tragedies.
“You can’t put out fire with fire,” he said during a debate in April.