With her support hovering just over three percent, former First Lady and federal congresswoman Margarita Zavala has bowed out of the race for the Mexican presidency.
A member of the conservative, pro-business Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), Zavala was running as an independent after falling out with the party’s preferred candidate, Ricardo Anaya.
Announcing her decision on live television Wednesday, Zavala said she wanted to “free up” her supporters to vote for the candidate of their choice in “this very difficult election.”
The only woman in the five-horse field, Zavala did not endorse any candidate, but it seems clear that her decision is aimed at cutting back support for left-wing frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who holds a comfortable 15-point lead in the polls.
Zavala’s husband, Felipe Calderon, defeated Lopez Obrador by a small margin in the 2006 presidential election.
Despite quitting the campaign, Zavala’s name will nevertheless appear on pre-printed ballots on election day, July 1. All votes for her will be counted and cannot be transferred to another candidate, Mexican Electoral Institute (INE) officials have clarified.
Another question being asked in the wake of Zavala’s departure regards the second debate, which is set for Sunday, May 20 in Tijuana. Zavala had been scheduled to open the debate, to be followed by Lopez Obrador. Organizers of the debate – touching on foreign commerce, investment and migration – are pondering how to redistribute the allocated time among the remaining candidates.
Political analysts said Zavala’s exit from the campaign would only minimally help Anaya, or Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) candidate Antonio Meade. It would take a much sharper decline in support for Lopez Obrador to make a significant change to the race.