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Mexico lets independent 'Bronco' run for president

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Mexico City (AFP)

A Mexican court ruled Tuesday that controversial independent candidate Jaime "The Bronco" Rodriguez can run for president, even though electoral authorities found he failed to collect the required signatures.

A tough-talking former rancher who does not shy away from controversy or cussing, Rodriguez will now be the fifth candidate on the ballot for the July 1 election, along with veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the front-runner; conservative Ricardo Anaya; ruling-party candidate Jose Antonio Meade; and former first lady Margarita Zavala, a fellow independent.

Mexico's electoral court ruled that the National Electoral Institute (INE) erred in not letting Rodriguez contest its March decision to exclude him from the ballot.

The INE had found that more than half the two million signatures submitted in support of his candidacy were forged, photocopied or invalid due to other irregularities.

But the court said the INE failed to "respect the guarantee of a hearing during the review process."

"God is great, thank you," Rodriguez wrote on Twitter after the ruling. "#NoSurrender."

The election will be the first time Mexico has allowed independent presidential candidates in its modern history.

The independents have next to no chance of winning, but could play spoilers by stripping votes away from the three main candidates.

In Rodriguez's case, he could cut into front-runner Lopez Obrador's vote in the north of the country.

Both are seen as tough-talking anti-establishment types, but Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, is not well known in the north, whereas the cowboy hat-wearing Rodriguez is instantly recognizable as a native.

Rodriguez made history in 2015 by becoming the first independent ever to be elected governor in Mexico.

But he also has a penchant for landing in hot water, such as when he warned school children about the dangers of teen pregnancy by saying, "No one loves a fat girl."

Zavala, the wife of ex-president Felipe Calderon (2006-2012), will for her part likely cut into the vote for fellow right-wing candidate Anaya.

The court also gave the INE 10 days to review the signatures submitted by another would-be independent candidate: moderate leftist Armando Rios Piter, known as "The Jaguar," who has also appealed electoral authorities' ruling excluding him from the ballot.

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