MEXICO CITY, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Mexico's presidential race officially kicked off on Friday with four contenders competing for the nation's highest office.
Leading in the polls is left-of-center candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a longtime leader of Mexico's progressive sectors who has served as mayor of Mexico City and ran for the presidency twice before.
Lopez Obrador is the candidate of the "Together We Will Make History" coalition comprised of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a party he founded in 2014, the Workers' Party (PT) and the Social Encounter Party (PES).
His lead is largely fueled by discontent with Mexico's right-of-center ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose candidate is former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, currently in third place.
The PRI is perceived as being soft on corruption, but with more than 70 uninterrupted years in power from 1929 to 2000 and again from 2012 to the present. Thus, the party's strength lies in its powerful institutional organization.
Ricardo Anaya, who ranked second in the polls, is a young but ambitious politician who climbed up the ranks of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). His candidacy alienated some within the party who backed Margarita Zavala, who is the the wife of ex-president Felipe Calderon (2006-2012).
To outflank Zavala, Anaya formed an unlikely alliance with Mexico's once left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which together with a third smaller party, comprise the "Mexico to the Front" coalition.
As a result, Zavala was forced to run as an independent, which is the first ever presidential candidate with no official party alliance in the country's history, as independent candidates have not been allowed before.
Also for the first time, some half a million Mexicans residing abroad will be able to take part in the July 1 general elections.
The candidates are already very familiar to the electorate since the official campaign season, which runs through June 27, was preceded by a pre-campaign period that began in December 2017.
More than 80 million registered voters will choose some of the 500 federal deputies and 128 senators that make up the national legislature, though some seats are filled by proportional representation in keeping with the percentage of votes each party gets.
Locally, voters will choose a mayor for Mexico City and eight governors, as well as 972 local deputies and 1,597 mayors.