Independent candidate, ex-1st lady Zavala leaves Mexico race

FILE - In this April 22, 2018 file photo, former first lady and independent presidential candidate Margarita Zavala waves to the press before the first of three debates among Mexico’s presidential candidates in Mexico City. Zavala said on Wednesday, May 16 that she is dropping out of the country’s July 1 presidential race. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

Mexican independent candidate and former first lady Margarita Zavala says she is dropping out of the country's July 1 presidential race

MEXICO CITY — Mexican independent candidate and former first lady Margarita Zavala announced Wednesday she is dropping out of the country's July 1 presidential race.

Zavala had broken her longtime affiliation with the conservative National Action Party and qualified for the ballot as an independent.

But she has been polling in the single digits, far behind the three leading candidates.

Zavala made the announcement in a program taped for broadcast later Wednesday, but did not endorse any other candidate.

"I am withdrawing my candidacy on the principle of political honesty and a sense of congruency, but also to free up those people who have so generously supported me so that they can make the decision they need to make in this difficult race," Zavala said in a taped interview with the Televisa network.

The country's electoral institute has already started printing voting material for the July 1 race, so Zavala's name will apparently remain on the ballot.

Zavala split with National Action in part because it joined in a right-left alliance with the Democratic Revolution Party to support coalition candidate Ricardo Anaya.

Anaya, who is running second in the polls, had been courting Zavala's supporters.

After Zavala's announcement was made public, Anaya described her in his Twitter account as "a brave woman with principles."

"Her contributions to the country, and this race in particular, have been very valuable," Anaya wrote. "All my recognition to her and all her team."

However, bad blood between Zavala and Anaya make it doubtful whether all, or even most of her supporters, would transfer their votes to Anaya.

Anaya used his position as party leader — a post traditionally seen as an impartial referee among presidential contenders — to capture the candidacy for himself, something Zavala publicly complained about.

Zavala's husband, Felipe Calderon, was president from 2006 to 2012.

Four other candidates remain on the ballot. Polls indicate that left-leaning candidate Andres Manuel Lopez holds a comfortable lead in the race.

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