Mexico's leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is leading national polls, declared he won't attend debates that are not organized by the National Electoral Institute (INE), and said his fellow candidates should “debate between them” if they are so eager about it.
The other candidates, Jose Antonio Meade and Ricardo Anaya, have been suggesting a possible televised debate before the actual campaigns start. Both candidates have engaged in mutual accusations of corruption and embezzlement through media during the past month, and Lopez Obrador wants to stay out of it.
“They should debate between them, Meade and Anaya, so then they could tell each other everything they have, and stop questioning, criticizing and threatening one another, and talk things through in a civilized manner instead. They should also go to the public ministry, not to debate, but to testify at the prosecutor's office,” said Lopez Obrador.
This is the third time Lopez Obrador is running for president, twice with the Democratic Revolution Party and now with his own political platform, the National Renewal Movement (Morena). During the last presidential campaign in 2012 he also refused to attend unofficial televised debates, as he thought they would be biased.
Lopez Obrador said he would only attend the three debates organized by the electoral authorities within the campaign period, between March 30 and June 27, and demanded respect among the candidates.
“Let's see if Mr. (Lopez Obrador) has the ideas, the courage and the nerve to face us in a debate,” said the right-wing candidate Ricardo Anaya, who has been recently accused of money laundering.
“I only ask for respect. That thing about me lacking the nerve, as the kids say, well that makes things heated,” said Lopez Obrador as he laughed with journalists interviewing him.
Jose Antonio Meade, the pro-government candidate, wrote on his Twitter account that the electoral tribunal had approved a debate before the start of the campaign period, saying that “there are no excuses” anymore, and invited Lopez Obrador to a debate.
Margarita Zavala, an independent candidate and wife of former right-wing President Felipe Calderon, also said she was ready for a debate “especially with Lopez Obrador, even though we know debates are not his thing.”
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“They want to outnumber me, to set a trap for me, but my Russian advisors from Catemaco and Zacapoaxtla, from Tuxtla Chico and Tepetitlan tell me I shouldn't be provoked into that,” Lopez Obrador told to journalists interviewing him in the northern city of Zacatecas, making fun of the accusations of Russian interventionism in the Mexican presidential elections.“They tell me 'Andres Manuelovich, stay calm, take it easy, like kicking a can, you know, little by little'.”
At least five different polling firms give Lopez Obrador between 39.5 and 33.25 percent of the vote intention, while Anaya has between 24.75-19.5 percent and Meade 24.3-14.1 percent.
“No, no, no. We will only be in the three debates because they want to hurt us. They think they will overcome the gap that way. They're far behind. I don't want to brag about it, but we're now almost 20 points ahead of the second place Anaya and Meade are fighting for,” said Lopez Obrador.
So far, the electoral authorities have approved three debates. The first one will take place in Mexico City on April 22, and it will be about corruption, public security and violence. The second will be in Tijuana on May 20, regarding foreign commerce, border security and migration. The last one will be on June 12 in Merida, and it will be about economic growth, poverty and inequality.
The number of candidates is yet to be confirmed, as the three independent candidates, Zavala, Jaime Rodriguez and Armando Rios Piter, are still waiting for approval from the electoral authorities.