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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Left-wing stalwart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he will again run for Mexico's presidency in 2012, six years after his razor-thin loss in the last election sparked extended massive protests.
Lopez Obrador, 58, a champion of the poor in a country where nearly half the population lives below the poverty line, beat Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard in a survey carried out among 6,000 supporters of left-wing parties.
"The survey results are in my favor ... I will participate in the 2012 electoral contest," Lopez Obrador told a news conference. The survey asked five questions and he won three of them.
The survey was carried out to see which of the two had more grassroots support and Lopez Obrador and Ebrard had said they
would let the results decide who contested the election.
Painted by some opponents as a threat to private business, Lopez Obrador staged huge protests in Mexico City after the 2006 election, saying he had lost because of fraud.
But his conservative opponent, President Felipe Calderon, rode out the storm and Lopez Obrador's popularity slumped after voters tired of the demonstrations which brought parts of the capital, including its main thoroughfare, to a halt.
"If he had not closed down (Avenue) Reforma years ago he would be a much stronger candidate today; he's still paying for that mistake," said office worker Ramon Lopez, 48.
A repetition of the close 2006 finish seems unlikely, with opinion polls showing Lopez Obrador trailing frontrunner Enrique Pena Nieto, likely to be the candidate for the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran the country for more than 70 years until 2000.
A recent poll by Mitofsky showed Pena Nieto at 33 percent support, with Lopez Obrador in second place with 10 percent.
Having spooked investors during the 2006 presidential race with his fiery left-wing rhetoric, Lopez Obrador has sought this time to present himself as a moderate, courting business leaders and offering programs to boost small enterprises.
But analysts said the choice of Lopez Obrador over the liberal Ebrard, who made his name with progressive laws in the country's capital that legalized abortion and gay marriage, would likely favor Pena Nieto.
"With Lopez Obrador as candidate, his supporters are celebrating and so is the PRI," said political scientist Jose Antonio Crespo from graduate school CIDE.
"We'll have to see what kind of different rhetoric Lopez Obrador might have compared to 2006. He has changed a bit, but I don't know whether it will be enough to get back the non-aligned voters, who were with him in 2006 but who he has lost. Now most of the non-aligned voters are with the PRI."
Analysts estimate non-aligned voters are 35 percent to 45 percent of the electorate. Lopez Obrador is also seen as having little chance of winning the backing of moderate supporters of Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Ebrard said he would respect the results of the surveys and throw his support behind Lopez Obrador in order to avoid splitting the left-wing vote in next year's election.
Mexico's main left-wing party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), is a waning force in politics and the loss of two state governorships this year, including Michoacan on Sunday, has fanned internal unrest.
The completion of the survey, which was conducted by separate pollsters, suggests that the left will skip the process of internal pre-selections, which the electoral authority has scheduled in February for all parties.
Additional reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz and Anahi Rama, Writing by Krista Hughes; Editing by Eric Walsh and Cynthia Osterman