“More than 15 million Mexicans are happy and want me to continue until September 2024,” Mr. López Obrador said in a video message published shortly after preliminary results were announced. “We are going to continue with the transformation of our country.”
With the next presidential election about two years away, the recall referendum also presented an opportunity for Mr. López Obrador to test his party’s strengths and weaknesses across the country, and determine who might be best positioned to succeed him. Mr. López Obrador is limited to one six-year term by the Constitution, but as his party’s key power broker, he is expected to play a vital role in picking a successor to carry on his legacy.
On the other side, the opposition viewed the exercise as an attempt to shore up the president’s hold on power. The president’s critics pointed to the low overall turnout as anything but a mandate for Mr. López Obrador and his efforts to transform the country.
“It has been a total failure,” said Juan Romero Hicks, a congressman with the opposition National Action Party in a video message posted shortly after polls closed. “Our president lost because he doesn’t have the confidence of the people.”
Analysts said that the vote, which was executed smoothly, may actually end up bolstering the image of one of the president’s most frequent targets: Mexico’s electoral watchdog.
In the months leading up to the vote, Mr. López Obrador and his supporters lobbied a barrage of criticism at the agency for not doing enough to promote the referendum and for not setting up enough ballot boxes.
“The I.N.E. is keeping quiet in an attitude that is totally undemocratic and contrary to the Constitution,” Mr. López Obrador said at a recent news conference ahead of the referendum, using the institute’s Spanish initials. “They are hiding” the ballot boxes, he added.