One of Mexico’s most influential business groups on Friday welcomed the victory of centre-right Felipe Calderón in the closely fought election.
“He is the best option for Mexico and we share many of the ideas in his economic platform,” José Luis Barraza, the president of the Business Co-ordinating Council, told the FT on Friday. Mr Barraza’s comments follow confirmation by the Federal Electoral Institute late on Thursday that Mr Calderón had defeated Andrés Manuel López Obrador by a margin of just 0.58 per cent.
Mexico’s shares, bonds and currency rallied this week on the news. On Thursday, as the likelihood of Mr Calderón’s victory in the official vote count grew, the stock market climbed 2.7 per cent. The peso strengthened to 11.16 against the dollar. On Monday, following unofficial news of Mr Calderón’s victory, the peso recorded its biggest one-day appreciation in six years.
If Mr Calderón, a 43-year-old Harvard-trained technocrat and a member of the President Vicente Fox’s National Action party (PAN), is named president-elect – Mr López Obrador has vowed to challenge the result – investors will breathe a huge sigh of relief.
For almost two years prior to the election Mr López Obrador had led opinion polls and until March his victory seemed assured.
His promise to ramp up social spending and to change the economic model scared the business community, and his constant refusal to meet investors appeared to confirm their worst fears.
By contrast, Mexico’s private sector sees in Mr Calderón a continuation of the prudent macroeconomic policies that under the government of Mr Fox have brought inflation and interest rates to record lows, sent international reserves to record highs and helped forge the makings of a potentially dynamic middle class.
One Mexican businessman said this week that Mr Calderón’s victory was “like avoiding the train that was about to hit you”.
Mr Barraza all but dismissed the possibility that the result could be overturned in court. “In democracy the one who ends up with the most votes wins. It is clear that the electoral process was carried out in the transparent manner that all the parties signed up to,” he said. “I don’t see any legal argument that could change this.”
In an interview this week Mr Calderón said he would extend the hand of friendship to all political parties, including Mr López Obrador’s PRD, and vowed to broker an agreement of national unity that would bring about a coalition government.