December 10, 2017 / 9:07 PM / 2 months ago

Mexican opposition leader Anaya to seek presidency in coalition

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican opposition leader Ricardo Anaya said on Sunday he would seek to win the presidency in a left-right alliance after stepping down as head of the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Anaya resigned as leader of the PAN on Saturday, a day after his party officially joined forces with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement party in the “For Mexico in Front” coalition.

If selected, Anaya will likely take on leftist former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, who is seeking the nomination for the ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Meade, who has served in both PRI and PAN administrations, resigned as finance minister in November and PRI officials hope he will help the party recover from a spate of corruption scandals.

Ricardo Anaya poses with his wife Carolina Martinez and his three sons after announcing his participation as a presidential pre-candidate for the coalition known as "For Mexico in Front" that brings together the conservative National Action Party (PAN), the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement party, in Mexico City, Mexico, December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

“This corrupt and inefficient PRI government has been an absolute national disaster,” Anaya said on Sunday, adding that his own party did not make fundamental structural changes during its two presidential terms from 2000 to 2012.

Anaya saw a split in his party in October when former first lady Margarita Zavala left to launch a bid for the presidency as an independent candidate. Zavala, the wife of former President Felipe Calderon, said she quit the PAN because the party base had been subordinated to the interests of its leadership.

FILE PHOTO: President of Mexico's Congress Ricardo Anaya gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured), after Nieto signed into law a radical reform of the country's energy, at the National Palace in Mexico City December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

The left-right coalition on Friday presented its official request with the electoral institute to compete in the July 2018 vote. The group must still pick its leader, with Anaya, who had been leader of the PAN since 2015, considered the front-runner.

Anaya, 38, has faced criticism in the Mexican press for his family’s “inexplicable” level of wealth, although he denies any wrongdoing.

In a voter poll published on Wednesday, Anaya came in second behind Lopez Obrador, who leads the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, but ahead of Meade.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, who was seen as a contender for the coalition, said on Saturday he would not run and criticized what he said was an undemocratic selection process.

Reporting by Christine Murray and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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