The polls thus far, however, do not alter the front-runner status of Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, which is attempting to return to presidential power after a loss in 2000 ended its seven-decade rule.
Opinion surveys released this week showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, heading a coalition of leftist parties, inching into second place, dislodging Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party, or PAN, of President Felipe Calderon. The margin between Lopez Obrador and Vazquez Mota remains very narrow, but it is the first time she has sunk into third place in polls across the board.
There are several reasons for Lopez Obrador's surge. Opponents of Peña Nieto have concentrated their attacks on the PRI candidate, chipping away slightly at his lead. A new students' movement, still limited in its national scope but receiving quite a bit of attention in the Mexican capital, has also helped in focusing a negative light on Peña Nieto; many of the students support Lopez Obrador, and they have vigorously challenged the portrayal in some media of a Peña Nieto victory as inevitable. And Vazquez Mota's campaign has stumbled logistically and lost momentum.
Lopez Obrador, onetime mayor of Mexico City, lost the 2006 presidential race to Calderon by less than 1%. His refusal to accept the results and street-seizing protests by his followers alienated many Mexicans, and many had written off his political career. But this time around, he has softened his image and his rhetoric in an effort to appeal to a broader base of voters.
Among the polls, the Mitofsky group put Peña Nieto's support at 35.6% of voters, Lopez Obrador with 21.7%, and Vazquez Mota with 20.4% (link in Spanish). Lopez Obrador was encouraged because 20.7% declined to answer; he said those who don't answer tend to vote for the left.
Another poll, by the Milenio newspaper with the GEA/ISA group, gave Peña Nieto a wider margin: 42.8% to 27.4% for Lopez Obrador and 26.2% for Vazquez Mota. Only one poll, by the Reforma newspaper, put Lopez Obrador within striking distance of the front-runner, but those results were markedly out of step with all other surveys.
The vote is July 1.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: In a rally late last month in Mexico City, leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks to supporters. Credit: Mario Guzman / European Pressphoto Agency