That didn’t take long

Simple electoral systems often make for unexciting counting. As soon as the polls closed in Mexico an hour ago, it was all over. Exit polls showed, exactly as expected, a landslide victory for leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (See Friday’s preview here.)

His two rivals, José Antonio Meade of the ruling PRI and Ricardo Anaya of the centre-right PAN, both quickly conceded defeat and congratulated López Obrador.

You can follow the official results here. They currently show López Obrador with 47.1% against Anaya’s 26.8% and Meade’s 17.4%. An independent, Jaime Rodríguez, has 6.1%.

Don’t take those numbers too seriously, because they only represent 1.1% of polling places. But they’re completely consistent with the exit polls and the last few months’ worth of opinion polls.

As the first left-wing president in modern times, López Obrador now has a mandate to address Mexico’s problems of corruption and poverty, and to try to de-escalate the drug war. He will also, of course, have to deal with his large and unpredictable northern neighbor.

López Obrador’s opponents professed to believe that he would take the country down the same dark route as Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, but there is little evidence for that. If he had won the presidency (as he almost did) twelve years ago there might have been some more radical outcomes, but he has clearly mellowed over the years, and his victory relied on a broad-based coalition.

It remains to be seen whether the new president will be able to command a majority in congress. Early results (very early) show his coalition with a narrow advantage in the lower house and a slightly better position in the Senate, but there’s a long way to go.

UPDATE (7.30pm Melbourne time): Actual counting has not just confirmed but improved López Obrador’s victory. With 36.6% of polling places in, he’s now running at 53.5%, to 22.9% for Anaya and an embarrassing 15.1% for the PRI’s Meade.

If that holds up, he’ll be the first president since Carlos Salinas in 1988 to officially win with a majority of the vote. I say “officially” because it was generally believed, both at the time and since, that Salinas’s victory was rigged, and his left-wing opponent Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas actually had more votes.

There’s also no doubt that López Obrador will have a sympathetic congress. His coalition is leading in 220 of the 300 single-member districts in the Chamber of Deputies. There are also 200 proportional seats, and with almost 45% of the vote it will win close to half of them as well, for a majority of more than 100.

The Senate will be a bit less one-sided, but still clear. Assuming Wikipedia’s description of the electoral system is correct, the left is headed for something like 73 seats against 55 for the combined opposition.

FURTHER UPDATE (9.40am Tuesday, Melbourne time): Mexico is a big country, so counting takes a while, but there’s no significant change in the figures. With 79.9% now counted, López Obrador has an absolute majority sewn up; he’s on 53.0% against Anaya’s 22.5% and a slightly improved 16.4% for Meade.

This morning’s BBC report is well worth a read, although it oddly remarks that “it is unclear whether his party will secure an outright majority in parliament.” That’s not unclear at all: the new president will have a majority in both houses, and in the lower house will quite probably have the maximum allowable majority, 300 out of 500.



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