Mexico's AMLO vows not to seek re-election

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico's traditional political parties (AFP Photo/PEDRO PARDO)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a letter to the nation Tuesday promising not to seek re-election, after opponents accused the anti-establishment leftist of plotting to circumvent the country's single-term limit.

"I'm inspired by ideals and principles, not the ambition for power," the leader known as "AMLO" told a press conference, reading the text of the letter.

"I do not agree with re-election and would never, under any circumstances, try to prolong my time in this position."

Lopez Obrador, 65, wrote the letter after controversy erupted over his plans to submit himself to a recall referendum halfway through his six-year term.

The populist president says the measure is rooted in his belief that "the people choose (their leaders), and the people remove (them)."

But his opponents, who often accuse him of authoritarian tendencies, say it is a veiled attempt to perpetuate his power.

The conservative National Action Party (PAN) warned last week that Lopez Obrador's push for a mid-term recall vote was "a clear attempt to perpetuate an authoritarian government in Mexico" and "a first step toward attempting to win re-election."

Other critics accuse the president of trying to put himself on the ballot in 2021 so he can use his coattails and bully pulpit to benefit his candidates in the mid-term elections, when the lower house of Congress and 13 governorships will be up for grabs.

The Mexican constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term.

There is currently nothing resembling mid-term recall referendums. But the lower house of Congress passed a bill last week to establish them, the first step toward reforming the constitution to that effect.

The bill next moves to the Senate. Lopez Obrador's upstart party, Morena, holds strong majorities in both houses.

Lopez Obrador won election in a landslide last year, ousting the two parties that had ruled Mexico for nine decades, the PAN and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), promising "radical transformation" in a country fed up with endemic corruption, inequality and violent crime.

He has clashed with the business sector and traditional elites since taking office on December 1, but is widely popular so far, with an approval rating of around 80 percent.