Mexico’s leftist presidential frontrunner, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, had a firm lead over his rivals as campaigning began for the July election, a new poll showed Thursday.
The daily newspaper Reforma gave Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, 34 percent support with Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party in second place with 26 percent.
In its last poll in November, Reforma had Lopez Obrador with 29 percent support, just 1 percentage point ahead of Calderon.
Lopez Obrador has promised heavy social spending in favor of Mexico’s poor, although business leaders and investors worry he will run up a budget deficit and wreck Mexico’s financial stability.
His double-digit lead in polls shrank late last year after he stepped down as mayor of Mexico City, but the Reforma survey Thursday and two separate polls Wednesday showed he still has a clear advantage.
They also showed that Roberto Madrazo of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, trails in third place. The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years until it was knocked from power at the last elections in 2000.
The election campaign formally opened Thursday and some analysts fear a tight three-horse race could raise political tension and rattle Mexico’s financial markets.
President Vicente Fox is barred under the constitution from seeking re-election. He remains a popular leader but his government is widely seen as having failed to deliver on its promises of strong economic growth and millions of new jobs.
Lopez Obrador won wide support as Mexico City’s mayor for ambitious public works programs and social spending, including pensions for all elderly residents.
He has promised to extend those programs to the rest of the country if elected. He would be the first president from a leftwing party in Mexico’s history.
The Reforma poll of 1,515 people was carried out between Jan. 14-15 and had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.