A combination of factors lay behind Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s emphatic victory in Mexico’s presidential elections in July, not the least among which were his promise to demilitarise Mexico and the perception that he would stand up to the nationalist rhetoric of US President Donald Trump, but even before assuming power he has taken steps in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, some of the old fears, principally that López Obrador would run an authoritarian government, are resurfacing. He stands accused of creating parallel governments to undercut the power of governors and mayors, and using his popularity to institutionalise a referendum process, ostensibly designed to increase participative democracy and empower people to determine policies, that has been abused in other countries, notably Venezuela. López Obrador has already confounded expectations but will he confound his critics?

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