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Mexico president backs ruling party candidate after selection process row

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-Mexico’s president on Thursday vigorously backed his party’s selection of former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum as its candidate to succeed him in 2024, dismissing objections about the process by her main rival, who threatened to quit the party.

The ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) declared Sheinbaum the winning candidate a few hours after her closest competitor, ex-foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard, said the primary contest had been irredeemably tainted by irregularities.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaking at a regular morning press conference extended a hand to Ebrard, calling him a “very good person,” a good leader and his friend, as he urged him to remain united with the leftist MORENA.

But he rejected Ebrard’s demand that the polls to pick a candidate be redone, and fell in behind the winner.

“I support Claudia Sheinbaum,” Lopez Obrador said, calling the process of surveying some 12,500 people in which she beat out five other rivals historic and unprecedented.

“I don’t see any problem.”

Ebrard says he will decide his next move on Monday and has left open the possibility of running with the center-left Citizens’ Movement (MC), the only significant opposition party yet to back a candidate for the June 2 presidential election.

On Thursday, the longtime ally of the president indicated his time in Lopez Obrador’s party was nearing an end.

“What is clear to us is that there’s no longer space for us inside MORENA,” Ebrard told a Mexican radio station.

During the press conference, Lopez Obrador suggested Ebrard may choose to run for the presidency as an independent candidate, and said he was free to do what he considers best.

The latest opinion polls suggest that MORENA is a strong favorite to win the presidency again, bolstered by Lopez Obrador’s personal popularity.

“(Sheinbaum) is an honest woman with convictions and principles,” the president said.

Victory would make her Mexico’s first woman president.

The main opposition alliance has already chosen a female candidate: Xochitl Galvez, a charismatic and unconventional senator of Indigenous origin who overcame an impoverished background to become a successful entrepreneur.

Under Mexican law, presidents can only serve a single six-year term.

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