Mexican presidential front-runner 'AMLO' registers candidacy

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Mexico City (AFP)

The fiery leftist leading the race to be Mexico's next president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, officially registered his candidacy Friday, vowing a "transformation" in the country.

In his third bid for the presidency, the candidate known as "AMLO" is riding a wave of discontent with politics-as-usual, especially the corruption-plagued Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of the deeply unpopular President Enrique Pena Nieto.

But many Mexicans are wary of just how radical a change he could represent, pointing to his speeches railing against the ruling class and promising to govern for the poor.

"I invite all Mexicans to transform public life in this country," he told supporters after registering at the National Electoral Institute.

"I want to go down in history as one of the best presidents Mexico ever had," he said, vowing: "The third time's the charm."

Recent polls put Lopez Obrador's support around 35 percent heading into the July 1 election, leading conservative candidate Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), whose support is in the low 20s, and Jose Antonio Meade of the PRI, who is polling in the teens.

In Mexico's first-past-the-post election system, that would put Lopez Obrador on track to win -- though nothing is certain at this point, with the official campaign only beginning on March 30.

Lopez Obrador, 64, was Mexico City mayor from 2000 to 2005.

He narrowly lost the presidency to Felipe Calderon of the PAN in 2006, insisting the election was robbed. Proclaiming himself the "legitimate president," he sought to grind the capital to a halt with a huge protest camp set up by his supporters.

But this time around, with a comfortable lead in the polls, he has sought to present a tamer image, repeatedly saying he is running a campaign of "peace and love."

Despite his vows to eradicate corruption, he has been criticized for links to graft-tainted figures including the mining union leader Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, who is running for senate for Lopez Obrador's party, Morena.

A large contingent from Gomez Urrutia's National Mine and Metalworkers' Union was present as Lopez Obrador presented his candidacy.