LA PAZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico’s leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday he will respect the results of the July 1 election, trying to ease fears of a repeat of months of protests he mounted after his 2006 loss.
The fiery orator and runner-up in the last election, has come from behind in polls to move into second place behind front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
In 2006, Lopez Obrador lost to President Felipe Calderon by less than one percentage point and refused to accept defeat, alleging vote fraud.
He later declared himself the “legitimate president of Mexico” and has been traveling around the country with that moniker for the past 6 years.
After Calderon’s win, Lopez Obrador supporters camped out on the capital’s main boulevard for months, angering Mexico City residents and spooking investors wary of the election unrest in Latin America’s No. 2 economy.
Both the PAN and the PRI have referred to the 2006 protests in negative campaign ads, with one flashing images of the march with a voice-over saying “Lopez Obrador doesn’t believe in democracy.”
To quell fears, the former mayor of Mexico City said he was prepared to sign a document pledging to recognize the decision of the election authorities this year.
“As far as we are concerned, let there be no doubt, so that no one manipulates the information, we are going to respect the results,” Lopez Obrador said at news conference in the Baja California peninsula. “That is democracy, the people decide.”
Lopez Obrador, known as “The Peje” for a type of swamp fish found in his native state of Tabasco, said his campaign team is organizing a network of election observers around the country to prevent acts of ballot stuffing.
Trying to project a softer image this time around, Lopez Obrador is bringing a message of love and reconciliation to his rallies. Earlier this month he said he rejected the policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez after being accused by rivals of trying to bring a socialist model to Mexico.
After lagging in third place for most of the race, Lopez Obrador has surged ahead into second in recent weeks, beating out ruling National Action Party (PAN) candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota.
One poll in the Reforma daily put Pena Nieto and Lopez Obrador just 4 percentage points apart.
While other polls still show a wider gap between the two, Lopez Obrador’s campaign is gaining strength from a recent wave of student protests accusing Pena Nieto and the PRI of corruption and authoritarianism.
Vazquez Mota’s candidacy got off to a sputtering start after a contested primary vote and a series of missteps on the campaign trail. She is also struggling to overcome voter disappointment with the government’s failure to contain drug violence and create more jobs.
In the latest poll by firm Consulta Mitofsky, Vazquez Mota had 21 percent support compared to Lopez Obrador’s 25.1 percent. Pena Nieto is leading both candidates with 37.2 percent backing, the survey showed.
Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Simon Gardner and Jackie Frank