MEXICO CITY — President Andrés Manuel Lpez Obrador's party and its allies on Monday appeared poised to maintain their majority in Mexico's lower chamber of the congress, but fell short of a two-thirds majority as some voters boosted the struggling opposition, according to initial election results..
Lpez Obrador's Morena party will have to rely on votes from its allies in the Workers Party and Green Party, but together they were expected to capture between 265 and 292 seats in the 500-seat lower house. Morena alone was expected to win 190 to 203 seats, according to preliminary vote counts.
That would signal a significant decline for the president's party. In the current congress, Morena has a simple majority, holding 253 seats on its own. It would also deprive the president of a qualified majority of two-thirds required to approve constitutional reforms.
Lpez Obrador appeared to acknowledge that new reality.. He praised the election as "free, clean" and said Mexicans had shown a degree of political maturity "never seen."
"You voted for two different and opposed plans, above all in the federal election," he said. "Those of the transformation plan are going to have the majority in the Chamber of Deputies and this means guaranteeing the sufficient budget for the most in need."
The results give the president sufficient budgetary control to continue his train and refinery-building plans and cash handout programs. But they may deny him congressional backing to escalate his ongoing spats with the courts and regulatory agencies, which have blocked some of his tougher proposals to empower state-owned industries and boost fossil fuels.
Opponents have said Lpez Obrador is trying to dismantle checks and balances created during Mexico's decades-long transition to full democracy.
"The voters have given a mandate that says 'I am not writing a blank check for any of the movements in Mexico'," said Luis Miguel Pérez Jurez, a political science expert at the Monterrey Technological university.
The opposition alliance made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, National Action Party and Party of the Democratic Revolution were estimated to win between 181 and 213 seats. Those would be gains for those parties, which have often appeared rudderless in the face of Lpez Obrador's popularity and which still face the challenge of coming up with a platform based on something other than just opposition to the president.
Even without Lpez Obrador on the ballot, the mid-term elections were seen by many as a referendum on his administration and his ability to continue what he calls the "Fourth Transformation" of Mexico. Turnout was high for mid-term elections, edging above 51% of eligible voters.
Lpez Obrador's party did better than expected in state governors' races, and appeared headed for wins in at least ten of the 15 states up for grabs. One of those wins was for the daughter of a Morena candidate who was accused of rape; she replaced her father on the ballot after he was eliminated for failing to report campaign spending.
The elections represent the first mass public events since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country over a year ago, though case numbers have fallen and Mexico has vaccinated about a quarter of adults.