April 24, 2012 / 7:44 PM / 8 years ago

Mexico presidential front-runner builds on big lead: poll

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s presidential front-runner, Enrique Pena Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), widened his lead over the ruling party candidate ahead of the July 1 election, a survey showed on Tuesday.

A woman takes a picture of herself and Enrique Pena Nieto, presidential candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), during a political rally in Queretaro April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Demian Chavez

The latest opinion poll by pollster Consulta Mitofsky showed Pena Nieto extending his advantage with 40.1 percent support, down 0.1 percentage points from the Mitofsky survey published on April 17.

Though his support slipped slightly, Pena Nieto’s lead over Josefina Vazquez Mota from the ruling National Action Party (PAN) widened. Her support of 21.5 percent dipped 1.1 percentage points from the previous poll.

Vazquez Mota is trying to overcome internal divisions within the PAN after a prolonged primary race. PAN members chose her over two other party rivals in a February vote.

Her popularity has also been dragged down by voter discontent with the government of President Felipe Calderon. Violence has surged in Mexico since Calderon took office in late 2006 and launched an army-backed crackdown on drug cartels.

In third place is leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is gaining ground on Vazquez Mota. The charismatic leader, who lost the last election by a slim margin, gained 0.5 percentage points from the last Mitofsky survey to reach 17.8 percent support.

Preaching a message of love and reconciliation, Lopez Obrador is trying to win back voters he alienated with massive, disruptive street protests to dispute the 2006 election result.

Pena Nieto, the 45-year-old former governor of the populous State of Mexico, is aiming to return the PRI to power after more than a decade on the sidelines.

The centrist party ruled Mexico for 71 years straight during a long reign tainted by allegations of corruption, eventually leading to an election loss in 2000.

During two consecutive PAN administrations, the PRI effectively blocked many conservative reforms in congress.

The party is now hoping to secure a majority to cement Pena Nieto’s power if he wins, breaking legislative gridlock since no party has held a majority in congress for the past 15 years.

The latest Mitofsky poll showed the PRI could capture a majority of seats in the lower house and senate.

According to Mitofsky’s data, 52.8 percent of those surveyed intended to vote for the PRI or the environmentalist Greens, a small party running on the same ticket, for congress. That result was slightly up from the last poll to the highest level this year.

Mitofsky surveyed 1,000 people 18 and older with a margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Anahi Rama; Editing by Philip Barbara

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