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Mexico turns page with win for leftist 'AMLO'

Mexico entered a new political era Monday after anti-establishment leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won the presidency in a landslide, leaving a divided nation split between elation and worry -- the latter reflected in market jitters.

The sharp-tongued, silver-haired politician known as "AMLO" won with more than 53 percent of the vote, with nearly 64 percent of ballots counted, according to the latest official results.

It is the first time in Mexico's modern democracy that a candidate has won more than half the vote, and a resounding rejection of the two parties that have governed the country for nearly a century.

Lopez Obrador, 64, will be the country's first leftist president in recent history when he takes office on December 1.

His coalition -- led by the party he launched in 2014, Morena -- also won a majority in the lower house of Congress, and was within striking distance of doing the same in the Senate, according to exit polls.

And it was on track to win at least five of the nine governorships being decided.

- Elation and worry -

The three-time presidential candidate's supporters were still aglow Monday with the euphoria of the previous night's celebrations, when tens of thousands of people flooded central Mexico City for Lopez Obrador's victory speech.

But for the new president's many critics, there was fear about what his promise of "deep change" will mean.

Lopez Obrador sought once again to downplay fears of radicalism, after critics branded him a "tropical Messiah" who would install Venezuela-style policies that could wreck Latin America's second-largest economy.

"You can trust me, I'm not a dictator. I'm a democrat," he said in his first interview, with the country's largest TV network, Televisa.

"We're going to respect the freedoms of all Mexicans. We're going to respect the right to dissent.... I'm very aware of my historic responsibility."

But there are lingering market jitters over a politician who clashed openly with the business sector during the campaign.

The Mexican peso was down 1.4 percent in midday trading, while the Mexican stock market's key index was down 1.45 percent.

"We still have little clarity on AMLO's economic policies," said the London-based consulting firm Capital Economics.

"We'll be looking in the coming weeks for indications of the size and nature of any fiscal stimulus or signs of a more interventionist energy policy."

- World congrats -

Congratulations poured in from leaders around the world, including an unexpected olive branch from US President Donald Trump.

Lopez Obrador had vowed during the campaign to "put (Trump) in his place," but said in his victory speech he wanted a relationship of "friendship and cooperation" with the United States, Mexico's key trading partner.

Trump, whose anti-trade, anti-immigration policies have infuriated Mexico, appeared ready to start off on the right foot.

"I just spoke with the president-elect of Mexico," he told reporters in the Oval Office. "I think the relationship is going to be a very good one."

He added that the change in leadership could yield better results on migration.

"I think he is going to try and help us with the border," he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the congratulations and emphasized his country's work with Mexico to renegotiate the NAFTA trade pact -- an effort that has stalled over attempts to satisfy Trump's demands.

- Politics reshaped -

Lopez Obrador successfully tapped voters' anger over a seemingly never-ending series of corruption scandals and violent crime that left a record 25,000 murders last year -- an orgy of bloodshed fueled by the country's powerful drug cartels.

The magnitude of his victory was immediately clear: no sooner had exit polls been released than his main rivals conceded defeat: runner-up Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and third-place candidate Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Anaya finished with 22.6 percent of the vote, and Meade 15.9, according to the latest results.

That amounted to a resounding rejection of the two parties that have governed Mexico since 1929 -- especially of the PRI, which ruled Mexico as a single-party state for 71 years, was ousted at the ballot box in 2000, then convinced voters to give it a second chance in 2012.

Many Mexicans would live to regret it: after six years of scandals, human rights violations, lackluster economic growth and horrific violence, Pena Nieto is poised to leave office as the most unpopular president in recent history.

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