More than 90 percent of Mexicans taking part in President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's recall referendum vote for him to stay in office, according to National Electoral Institute.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador (L) and his wife Beatriz Gutierrez show their voter ID after voting at a polling station in Mexico City, on April 10, 2022.
Mexican President Lopez Obrador (L) and his wife Beatriz Gutierrez show their voter ID after voting at a polling station in Mexico City, on April 10, 2022. (AFP)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has easily survived a divisive referendum on whether he should step down or complete his term –– a vote marked by low turnout, initial results showed.

The 68-year-old president, elected in 2018 for a six-year term, won a majority of around 90.3-91.9 percent in favour of his staying in office until 2024, according to a preliminary vote count on Sunday by the National Electoral Institute.

The turnout rate was between 17 and 18.2 percent, meaning that even if Lopez Obrador had lost, the result would not have been legally binding.

With an approval rating of nearly 60 percent, Lopez Obrador's presidency had never appeared seriously at risk, and the left-wing populist was himself one of the vote's biggest cheerleaders.

Supporters of the referendum –– the first of its kind in Mexico –– said it was a way of increasing democratic accountability, giving voters the opportunity to remove the president due to loss of confidence.

"Now we have the chance to change what's not right. There have been presidents who, after being elected by the people, ended up serving other interests," Benigno Gasca, a 57-year-old mathematician and musician, told the AFP news agency.

'Useless exercise'

But critics saw it as expensive propaganda and an unnecessary distraction from the many challenges facing the country, including drug-related violence, poverty and the rising cost of living.

"It's a useless exercise –– money thrown away," said Laura Gonzalez, a 62-year-old retired teacher.

Lopez Obrador cast his vote early on Sunday with his wife at a polling station near the presidential palace.

"Let no one forget that the people are in charge," he declared afterward.

Mexico's constitution limits presidents to one term, and Lopez Obrador has vowed to retire in 2024, following accusations by opponents that the referendum was a step towards trying to stay in power beyond then.

Mario Delgado, leader of the ruling party Morena, said voters had recognised Lopez Obrador's "dedication to the most needy and the enormous moral authority with which he governs.

"Only an indomitable, unwavering democrat like him can subject himself to a recall process," he added.

But Marko Cortes, of the conservative opposition party PAN, said the vote was marked "by illegality, lies, manipulation and the diversion of public resources."

Alejandro Moreno of the PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades until 2000, tweeted that Morena had turned the referendum into a "mockery" to "satisfy its own ego and continue deceiving Mexicans."

Source: AFP