MEXICO CITY: Leftist Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has moved up into a second-place tie in the latest voter survey by pollster BGC, but front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto maintains a large lead.
With seven weeks to go until the July 1 election, Lopez Obrador, the 2006 runner-up, rose 3 percentage points to 26 percent, according to the poll for Monday's edition of newspaper Excelsior, which BGC published on its website on Sunday.
Josefina Vazquez Mota, of President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN), slipped 2 points to 26 percent.
Both remained far behind hot favorite Pena Nieto, candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, who dipped 2 points to 45 percent, BGC said.
Political analysts say they expect Pena Nieto to maintain his lead into the election, and many doubt that Lopez Obrador will be able to gain much more support.
The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years until it was ousted in 2000 by the PAN, whose support has faded because of its failure to create enough jobs and contain rampant drug-related violence that has killed 50,000 people in the last five years.
A surge in recent violence could influence voter preferences. On Sunday, 49 headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Mexico's northern city of Monterrey in one of the country's worst atrocities in recent years.
The BGC survey followed last Sunday's televised debate between the presidential contenders.
Pena Nieto's debating skills had been seen as a potential liability ahead of the debate, but analysts said he held his own. Initial opinion polls after the showdown suggested Lopez Obrador had performed better than Vazquez Mota in the exchanges.
The second and final campaign debate will be on June 10. BGC interviewed 1,200 eligible voters between May 7 and 9 for the survey. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points, it said.
Lopez Obrador may have gained some ground with his attacks in the debate that painted Pena Nieto as a creation of dominant broadcaster Televisa and a tool of prominent PRI elder statesmen dogged by accusations of corruption and cronyism.
The newspaper Reforma reported on Friday that Pena Nieto had paid leading broadcasters to make favorable comments about his administration when he was governor of the state of Mexico, a populous region next to the capital, between 2005 and 2011.
Pena Nieto denied this, but Lopez Obrador seized on it to press home his charges that the PRI hopeful is beholden to the owners of Televisa, who have been able to lobby against the introduction of more television broadcasters in Mexico.
"My hypothesis is that Televisa wants to impose him as the next president of Mexico," Lopez Obrador told reporters during a campaign stop in the Gulf of Mexico port of Tampico on Sunday.