Mexico leftist Lopez Obrador extends lead in presidency race-poll

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The opposition leftist leading the race to win Mexico’s July 1 presidential election has extended his advantage, while the government’s candidate is now nudging into second place, a newspaper poll showed on Thursday.

Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves to supporters after a floral tribute to mark the 212th anniversary of the birth of president Benito Juarez, at the Hemiciclo a Juarez monument in Mexico City, Mexico March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, saw his effective lead rise to 42 percent support, according to the survey in business newspaper El Financiero, up from 38 percent in from the paper’s prior poll in February.

Meanwhile, backing for former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), increased by two percentage points to 24 percent, the survey of 1,200 voters conducted from March 9-14 showed.

Support for Ricardo Anaya, the former chairman of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) who leads a right-left coalition, fell by four percentage points to 23 percent.

Anaya’s campaign momentum has been dented by allegations of financial wrongdoing, an accusation he denies.

Centering on property dealings in Anaya’s home state of Queretaro, the results of the latest poll showed that dispute had weighed on support for him, El Financiero said.

Lopez Obrador has profited from widespread discontent over corruption scandals dogging the PRI, the government’s failure to curb gang violence and anemic economic growth.

But there is significant concern in the business community about Lopez Obrador’s economic plans, including his pledge to cancel the new Mexico City airport being built, and his threats to walk back the government’s opening of the oil and gas sector.

The poll results stripped out those voters expressing no preference, or some 30 percent of respondents, the paper said.

Lopez Obrador’s camp has also benefited from defections from other parties in recent weeks as politicians scramble to secure seats in the new Congress, which is also elected on July 1.

El Financiero said Lopez Obrador’s party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), was currently poised to win the biggest share of seats in the Senate and lower house of Congress, polling support of around 34 percent in both.

The PRI was polling second with 23 percent support in the lower house and 22 percent in the Senate. The PAN had 19 percent support in the lower house and 20 percent in the Senate.

PRI officials hope Anaya’s troubles will help concentrate opposition to Lopez Obrador around Meade in the coming months.

The survey had an estimated margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, the newspaper said.

Reporting by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Dave Graham and Susan Thomas