The easiest comparison in the wake of the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as Amlo, as Mexico’s first Left president in over two decades on Sunday, is between him and Donald Trump. Like Trump, Lopez Obrador has claimed to be an outsider to the largely centrist, pro-globalisation political parties. He has also made tall promises, from eradicating corruption to ending crime and increasing employment, while keeping taxes low. But while Lopez Obrador is certainly a populist, his election must also be seen as a challenge to an idea of globalisation that has failed to deliver in Mexico.
That Lopez Obrador won the election with about 53 per cent of the vote is a sign of how much the people of Mexico desire change. A military crackdown on the drug cartels has only served to increase the level of violence in the country, about half the population lives in poverty and the perception of the political class as corrupt is widespread. Lopez Obrador, at 65, unlike Trump, is no political novice — he has served as mayor of Mexico City. In fact, a significant part of his campaign took on the US president’s anti-Mexican immigrant policies. Lopez Obrador’s tall promises are also tempered by a degree of realism — he has said he will continue to negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico’s president-elect has caused some trepidation among investors. The reason for his appeal, though, is clear: In the last 25 years, pro-market governments have failed to deliver on both economic growth and poverty alleviation. Now in office after a career as a vocal opposition leader, Mexico’s new president must keep in mind that growth is essential for him to live up to the promises he made on the campaign trail.