“[The PRD] is probably too close to the old regime, and that has been a very difficult problem for the left,” says sociologist Roger Barta, a professor emeritus at Mexico's National Autonomous University.
Mexico has a long tradition of an intellectual left, popularized by writers and painters such as Diego Rivera. Its political party arose from the leftist faction in the PRI, which protested the rightward swing of some PRI party members.
López Obrador became the face of the PRD after his tenure as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2006. In the 2006 presidential election, he presented himself as a fiery populist, denouncing oligarchs and promising that in his administration, the poor would be first.
Those words should have staying power in Mexico, where the gap between the rich and poor is vast: The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, hails from Mexico, while more than 40 percent of Mexicans live on less than $2 a day. López Obrador, nicknamed AMLO or “el Peje,” after a tough freshwater fish from his native Tabasco, started his political career working on behalf of the indigenous in his home state and ran for governor in 1994, but lost.