How Lopez Obrador's Election as President Will Change Mexico

7 MINS READDec 1, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador addresses the media in Mexico City on July 5, 2018.

Mexican voters elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as president based on his promises to combat government and private sector corruption. He takes office Dec. 1.

Editor's Note: With Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set to take the oath of office on Dec. 1 as Mexico's next president, Stratfor is publishing this chronology of archived analyses written since Lopez Obrador's election on July 1. The congressional majorities Lopez Obrador's coalition also secured over the summer will give the new Mexican president the power to implement much of his populist agenda. Click on each title below to read the full analysis.

Mexico: What the President-Elect's Call for a Moral Constitution Means

Nov. 27, 2018: Mexico's new leader is moving forward with his plan to create a set of social guidelines and shared values that he has dubbed a moral constitution. On Nov. 26, Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set out a timetable for drafting the new document. According to Lopez Obrador, the presidency will accept submissions from members of different elements of Mexican civil society from Dec. 3, 2018, to April 20, 2019. The government will then convene on July 31 to determine which proposals to include in a final draft.

Mexico's President-Elect Continues to Refine His Energy Policies

Oct. 19, 2018: There are just about six weeks to go until Mexico's new president takes office, yet policy in one area that has attracted some of the hottest speculation, energy, remains very much a work in progress. Leftist President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — popularly known by the nickname AMLO — rode a wave of public discontent with the incumbent administration and corruption to the presidency. On the campaign trail, however, Lopez Obrador also directed his ire at another bugbear: the country's 2013 energy reform. The politician's persistent attacks on energy reform largely focused on higher fuel prices for consumers, although he also denounced the incumbent administration's move to open the exploration and production of the state-owned oil and gas resources to private capital.

Mexico: President-Elect Plows Ahead With Plans for an Airport Vote

Oct. 16, 2018: On Oct. 16, the legislative heads of Mexico's ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), said their party would not financially support a referendum on whether to continue construction of the new Mexico City international airport. The president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a Morena ally, said the referendum lacked legal validity and that he would ask the Supreme Court to invalidate it if President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attempts to enforce its results. The referendum, which Lopez Obrador has set for Oct. 25-28, would give voters the options of continuing the project — which has been plagued by allegations of $40 million in corruption-related cost overruns — canceling its construction in favor of expanding the existing Mexico City and Toluca airports or building new runways at the Santa Lucia military airbase. The government may also try to reduce costs for some parts of the airport project even if voters choose to continue with its construction.

The Next Mexican President's Nationalist Approach to Energy

Aug. 15, 2018: Despite his populist rhetoric, the next president of Mexico will largely play by the rules when it comes to the country's energy reforms. President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on Dec. 1, and he and his party may have the votes in Congress to challenge the 2013 constitutional changes that opened most of Mexico's energy sector to private investors. But any such move would meet strong resistance at home and from abroad, and it could also damage the country's economy. What the next administration will do is target the parts of the reform that it deems harmful to the people of Mexico, and some of those changes could complicate foreign investment.

Violence, Security and the Next Mexican President

Aug. 14, 2018: In just over three months, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be inaugurated as the next president of Mexico. He will be armed with a public mandate to tackle corruption and drug violence. His party, the National Regeneration Movement, will also enjoy a majority in both houses of Congress. That control will give him an opportunity that presidents Enrique Pena Nieto, Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox did not have — a strong chance to carry out his political agenda.

Tackling Mexico's endemic corruption is one important part of that program. Another closely related topic is the country's security challenges, which have dominated the agendas of several recent administrations, consuming their attention and political capital. Indeed, in November 2012, I analyzed Pena Nieto's plans to address security, and in 2017, I examined some of the limitations that the next president was going to face. Now that we know the names of some of the people in Lopez Obrador's national security Cabinet and some of its proposals, it's time to take a closer look.

Why More Democracy Might Mean More Disruption in Mexico

July 25, 2018: Mexico witnessed radical change in its elections at the beginning of this month, and it appears the prospects for profound transformation are only likely to grow. After riding a populist wave of support to victory on July 1, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador released a list of priorities for Mexico's Congress — which his coalition will also dominate — when newly elected lawmakers assume their seats on Dec. 1. Amid the raft of anti-corruption proposals is one item that could prove crucial: the elimination of restrictions on referendums, together with a related constitutional amendment to make such votes legally binding. Though the proposal is brief and buried within the incoming president's lengthy to-do list, the manner in which Lopez Obrador goes about expanding and amending Mexicans' right to vote in referendums could have wide-ranging and unintended consequences — not least for politicians, the private sector and foreign investors.

What Will Lopez Obrador Do About Mexico's Corruption?

July 5, 2018: Some political regimes bend for decades until they break. After years of pressure building on Mexico's political establishment, an overwhelming presidential and legislative victory by populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Voters propelled Lopez Obrador — who was third-time lucky after two unsuccessful attempts to capture the presidency — into the country's highest office with more than half of the national vote and the highest tally for any presidential candidate since 1994. Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (Morena) also captured a majority in the Senate and lower house, marking the first time any candidate has won both chambers since 1997.

Often referred to simply as "AMLO," the new president clearly enjoys a strong political mandate and extensive powers to pursue an agenda that includes hiking public spending, raising wages and possibly rolling back parts of energy and education reforms. But perhaps the plan that will have the most profound ramifications is his popular — and politically loaded — vow to stamp out corruption in Mexico. Fueled by the fraying of the country's political establishment and intensifying public intolerance toward crime and graft, Lopez Obrador has a strong platform to target well-entrenched political adversaries under a broad, anti-corruption umbrella. The new president, however, could trigger a major upheaval as he strives to tackle misconduct that has infested the public and private sectors. The question now is whether he will turn to political pragmatism once in power — becoming a product of the system he was elected to dismantle — or will use the powerful tools at his disposal to try and upend the country's political order.

AMLO and the Mexican Structural Problem

July 3, 2018: During the last decade, Mexico has reached unprecedented levels of violence, not only in quantitative numbers but also in qualitative terms. For instance, 2017 was the most violent year recorded in the past two decades, with more than 29,000 violent murders and followed by 27,000 recorded in 2011.

It's not just various quantitative indicators of public security that reveal a highly deteriorated situation; in states such as Guerrero, Michoacán or Sinaloa, the barbarism has also been unprecedented. Mass graves, bodies hanging from bridges and unknown amounts of forced disappeared people are unfortunately common in those regions. The kidnaping of 43 students in the municipality of Iguala, State of Guerrero, in September 2014, by local policemen and drug traffickers, is an example of the situation affecting certain regions of the country; a situation that the new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) will have to face through a systemic approach that hasn’t been adopted yet.

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